POSTED: 1:30 a.m. HST, Jul 16, 2011
SANDWICH, England » Darren Clarke marched along bumpy fairways on a wild ride at Royal St. George's that was filled with blunders and brilliance, and one final birdie that brought the kind of ovation he had not heard in a decade at the British Open.
Right behind him was Lucas Glover, far more steady in closing his solid round with eight straight pars.
When a sun-baked and wind-blown second round finally ended Friday, they shared the lead in a major that is living up to its proper name.
The Open Championship is every bit of that.
Second-round leaders; par-70:
Before anyone could get excited about the prospects of Clarke delivering yet another major to Northern Ireland, all it took was one look down the leaderboard — all the way to the bottom — to realize this championship was just getting started.
Only seven shots separated first from worst going into the weekend.
"There's still two days of tough golf and tough weather ahead of us," Clarke said.
Clarke, a forgotten figure as Graeme McDowell and Rory McIlroy captured the U.S. Open the past two years, bounced back from a double bogey to make a 90-foot eagle putt and survived a few more hiccups on his way to another 2-under 68.
Glover, playing the kind of golf that won him a U.S. Open two years ago in New York, had only three bogeys in the first two rounds. He had a 70 to join Clarke in the lead at 4-under 136.
"Unlike often when you're in contention in a championship where it may be between six, seven, eight of you, now it's between the whole field," Thomas Bjorn said. "You've just got to go out there and knuckle down and see where it gets you to on Sunday afternoon."
Bjorn (72) was one shot behind along with PGA champion Martin Kaymer (69), Chad Campbell (68) and Miguel Angel Jimenez (71). The 29 players within four shots of the lead included U.S. Open champion Rory McIlroy, who met his goal of getting to even par for the tournament with a spectacular save from a buried lie in the pot bunker in front of the 18th green.
McIlroy will play today for the third straight time with Rickie Fowler, a fellow 22-year-old who fought his way to a 70 and then summed up the state of this British Open going into the weekend.
"It's basically a new tournament starting tomorrow," Fowler said.
Even with a beloved figure like Clarke in the lead, nothing is drawing more attention than the weather.
The forecast is strong wind and increasing rain late in the morning, followed by heavy rain and even stronger gusts in the afternoon. Depending on the weather, it could be a repeat of 10 years ago at Royal Lytham & St. Annes, when David Duval started the third round seven shots out of the lead and wound up with a share of the lead by the end of the day.
"There's an awful long way to go yet, and I believe the forecast for the weekend is very, very poor, which I quite look forward to," Clarke said. "But the course is going to play very, very tough. If that's the case, then the tournament is still wide open for an awful lot of players."
So many players, in fact, that it was easy to overlook Phil Mickelson, who has never fared well at the British Open and suddenly finds himself within three shots of the lead going into the weekend.
"I'm looking forward to that challenge, and I'm hoping I've got the shots now to be effective in it," Mickelson said.
The eclectic mix of contenders still includes 20-year-old amateur Tom Lewis, who shared the lead after the first round with a 65 and held it together until the end of his round, when he three-putted the 17th and was fortunate to make bogey on the final hole. His shot from the rough went over the green and was headed out of bounds until the ball hit the stake. He shot 74, and was still only three shots behind.
On the other end of the spectrum was 61-year-old Tom Watson, who put on another memorable show with a hole-in-one on the sixth hole, hitting a pure 4-iron from 160 yards into the wind that took one hop and banged off the pin before dropping into the cup.
"They're all lucky when they go in," Watson said. "But that's what I was aiming at."
The group at 2-under 138 included a former Ryder Cup captain in Tom Lehman (67) and the current captain in Davis Love III (68). They were joined by Masters champion Charl Schwartzel, who has experience with a crowded leaderboard. He was one of eight players with a share of the lead on the final day at Augusta National before winning.
McIlroy was the favorite going into the British Open, and it's hard to rule him out at only four shots behind. At times the kid looked as though he was ready to make a move, only to miss a key putt or find a bunker that led to bogey.
Even so, he was right where he needed to be.
"I think you'll see a lot of chopping and changing at the top of the leaderboard," he said. "It's the most open Open I've seen in a long time. Yeah, I think it'll be excited to be a part of, and it'll be excited to watch over the next two days."
Troy Matteson and George McNeill are tied for the Viking Classic lead midway through a waterlogged second round at Annandale Golf Club in Madison, Miss., that was suspended due to frequent thunderstorms.
Matteson finished his round, but McNeill was on the 18th fairway when the final delay was called at about 6:30 p.m. local time due to lightning in the area. The day featured nearly 6 hours of delays as thunderstorms rolled through central Mississippi on a steamy summer afternoon.
Matteson shot his second straight 6-under 66.
Punahou graduate Parker McLachlin was at 3 under when play was suspended.