Golf: Exemption draws nearer

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The Independent Online
PETER MITCHELL will be engaged in golf in some capacity on Sunday, one being considerably more pleasurable than the other. He will either be engaged at Barassie in a dogfight known as Open Championship qualifying or in a bunfight at the opening of the London Club in his home county of Kent.

Yesterday he went some way towards ensuring it will be the latter. Mitchell shot 64 in the second round of the Bell's Scottish Open and at nine under par for the championship is nicely placed to gain one of the five places on offer that grant exemption to the Open at Turnberry next week.

Should he do so he will travel to the London Club, which marks its opening with a three-ball of Jack Nicklaus, who designed the course, Seve Ballesteros and Tony Jacklin. Mitchell's connection with the exclusive club is that he has been appointed as the touring professional. As such he might have expected an invitation to make the three-ball a four-ball but as it stands the Japanese owners simply expect his presence at the grand opening.

'It would be nice to play with them but those three are legends,' Mitchell said. 'I'm immaterial.' It was put to him that he was a legend in Kent. Which part? somebody asked. 'My house,' Mitchell replied. Over-confidence is not one of his problems. In a 20-year professional career Mitchell has one Tour victory: the Austrian Open in 1992 on a course designed by Nicklaus.

The Golden Bear PR team sent Mitchell a congratulatory letter complete with a photograph of the great player-designer himself. A nice gesture but it is not common practice for one professional to send another a photograph of himself. On one occasion Mitchell actually spoke to Nicklaus when they bumped into each other in the gent's. 'I can't possibly repeat the conversation,' Mitchell said mysteriously.

On current form you would have to back Mitchell to beat Nicklaus. 'He may have designed the London Club,' the Londoner said, 'but it's my home course, know what I mean.' Yesterday, the King's Course was plundered and although Mitchell's 64 gave him a one-stroke lead at the half- way stage there were several 63s. One was by D J Russell, who 12 months ago drove from here after the second round in the mistaken belief that he had missed the cut. When he arrived home in Derby he got back in his car and drove through the night to Gleneagles. Yesterday he finished with an eagle three, chipping in from 45 yards after hitting his approach on to the practice putting green on the left.

Andrew Oldcorn also had a 63 although he nearly disappeared without trace at the ninth, which has a sharply raised green. Lining up his putt, Oldcorn stepped back, lost his footing and as he headed down the slope he completed a full somersault and landed on his feet. It drew the loudest applause of the day and a string of 10s. Despite the fact that he could barely hold the club through laughing, Oldcorn sank the putt.

Ernie Els, with a bogey six at the last, missed the cut by a stroke while John Daly survived with nothing to spare. The cut was made at one under par and Daly is at one under.

Colin Montgomerie had a 66 to stand at seven under. 'I'm exactly where I want to be,' he said. 'I haven't got a Langer or a Faldo in front of me.' No, but he has got the London Club touring pro.

Scores, Sporting Digest, page 35