Clarke finds focus to forge ahead as Rory battles back
Veteran thanks his two psychologists after a second 68 gives him a share of the lead
Saturday 16 July 2011
So wretched is the weather forecast for these next two days, this 140th Open Championship will turn into as much a mental marathon as a technical examination. Perhaps that is why Darren Clarke, one of the halfway pacesetters, has been using not just one sports psychologist here but two.
As crazy as it may sound, Clarke's unprecedented move is so far leaving the majority of his rivals on the couch. These include the world Nos 1 and 2, who left Sandwich needing their heads, if not their rankings examined. So much home hope was invested in Luke Donald and Lee Westwood and so much disappointment greeted their demise. Good job that Clarke, that Ryder Cup hero, is up there leapfrogging his demons to the top.
Yet far from being in two minds, with two shrinks barking their orders, the 42-year-old has rarely seemed so at ease and single-minded in his purpose. Dr Bob Rotella and Mike Finnigan are the gurus and Clarke has had sessions with both in his effort to land that overdue first major.
Dr Bob also works with Rory McIlroy and would have been pleased with the manner in which the US Open champion responded to the challenge. Going out in the worst of the conditions, the 22-year-old – who in different quarters since his eight-shot record-breaker in the Congressional has been hailed as "the new Tiger" and "the new Messiah" – fired a 69 to haul himself back to level par.
McIlroy came into this major declaring he would be content with two 70s and here he is. Yet the young Ulsterman has not totally convinced this week. There were times yesterday when he seemed about to storm into vision on the scoreboards but each time a bogey arrived. Three in all. It will be intriguing to see how he copes in the upcoming carnage.
Within four of the lead, McIlroy still has a favourite's chance of becoming the first debutant major winner to follow up in his very next major. That thought represented so much more than mere consolation as he went past the exuberant fans to the locker room.
When he got there he would have found Clarke, his friend and sometime mentor, piling all the praise on Rotella as "an old friend who has helped me think more clearly on the greens".
"I was hitting it all right, but struggling a bit on the greens," said Clarke. "But then I ran into Bob and I just found my feeling." Maybe, for the sake of fairness, he could credit one 68 to Rotella, an American whose clients also include Padraig Harrington, and the other 68 to Finnigan, an Englishman whose clients have included Andrew Flintoff and Jimmy White.
As the field bunched up yesterday it was all too forgivable to try to weigh up such imponderables. In truth, this was a breather after the first day of high drama. There was Tom Watson's hole-in-one on the sixth to make the galleries reach apoplexy, a response he richly deserved when, at 61, he became the oldest man in the 151-year history of the Championship to make the cut, on two over.
Remarkable feat though that was, still it is fair to deduce that the opening day of fairytales had given way to a rather more earthy reality. This links is tough and it's about to go way past severe. "I've heard what's coming and I don't want to think about it," said Adam Scott after a 70 that left him three off the lead. Winds of 35mph-plus are predicted to be coming and they shall be loaded with rain.
It will be about coping with wet grips and cruel gusts, as well as all the other nuances which make Sandwich such a comprehensive test. That was evidenced yesterday by a leaderboard which was pretty static throughout. Birdies were hard to come by; scrambling was the order of the second round. This particularly applied in the afternoon when the breezes rose and the course dried.
A few of the pin placements were on the edges of slopes and the wind had switched to the prevailing south, which meant the layout played exactly as it was intended – difficult. But there were birdies out there, as Clarke proved when moving to four-under to share the lead with Lucas Glover. It was a frenetic display by the Ulsterman who, the common view believed, was years past his best. Five birdies, an eagle, three bogeys, a double bogey and eight pars – consistent it was not.
Yet through it all the big man smiled, refusing to let himself get too down; or at least restricting his famous temper to the occasional scowl. Impressive.
Yet Glover's no mug. The 2009 US Open champion was the pre-tournament pick of quite a few "experts" on the range. "He loves these greens and is a great driver," said Robert Karlsson. Both qualities could prove critical as the darks clouds move in. In a tie for third is a large group containing the overnight joint leader, Thomas Bjorn, the American Chad Campbell, the Spaniard Miguel Angel Jimenez and the German Martin Kaymer.
The last name is, of course, the most ominous on the leaderboard. The world No 3 won last year's USPGA Championship and then rose all the way to world No 1. The last few months have seen him slide a little, but there were signs in France a few weeks ago of a comeback to form. Here his solid start has positively screamed of a return to previous excellence.
"My putter was very strong," Kaymer said after a 69 appended so cosily to a 68. "I am confident. I am striking it well and that will be important when it's very windy If the weather comes then it'll be a battle. And I'm ready for it. It will take some mental strength but I think I should be fine."
A daunting statement, but with so many players – 60-plus – within seven of the lead, the champion could be lurking down with the supposed also-rans. This truly could be the wide open Open. "The tournament starts tomorrow," said Rickie Fowler.
That means Tom Lewis still boasts an unlikely opportunity. The 20-year-old Englishman – who, with his first-round 65, became the youngest amateur to lead the Open in 43 years – was disappointed with his 74, but at one-under overall it hardly constituted a disaster. Lewis actually enjoyed a stroke of luck on the last when his approach flew the green and was only stopped from going out of bounds when hitting a post.
But then Westwood stormed out, Colin Montgomerie style, after a 73 dropped him to four over and Donald questioned when, if ever, he would contend in the Open after 76 saw him disappear on six over.
With Ian Poulter and Graeme McDowell also out there are some big names missing, yet many remain for the weekend masses to roar. If they can be heard above the wind and rain, that is. Not to mention the howling and wailing. Psychologists will be needed.
(GB or Irl unless stated, par 70) *denotes amateur
136 L Glover (US) 66 70, D Clarke 68 68. 137 C Campbell (US) 69 68, MA Jimenez (Sp) 66 71, T Bjorn (Den) 65 72, M Kaymer (Ger) 68 69. 138 D Johnson (US) 70 68, A Hansen (Den) 69 69, C Schwartzel (SA) 71 67, D Love III (US) 70 68, T Lehman (US) 71 67, G Coetzee (SA) 69 69, P Larrazabal (Sp) 68 70
139 P Mickelson (US) 70 69, J Overton (US) 68 71, A Scott (Aus) 69 70, R Palmer (US) 68 71, *T Lewis 65 74. 140 S Stricker (US) 69 71, Z Johnson (US) 72 68, K Stanley (US) 68 72, S Garcia (Sp) 70 70, S Dyson 68 72, W Simpson (US) 66 74, R McIlroy 71 69, A Kim (US) 72 68, R 69 71, F Jacobson (Swe) 70 70, Y Ikeda (Japan) 69 71, R Fowler (US) 70 70, YE Yang (Kor) 71 69. 141 J Day (Aus) 71 70, S Levin (US) 72 69, Seung-yul Noh (S Kor) 69 72, R Sabbatini (SA) 71 70, R McEvoy 69 72, S Cink (US) 70 71, B Watson (US) 69 72, C Howell III (US) 71 70, R Jacquelin (Fr) 74 67, G Boyd 71 70, S Gallacher 70 71, R Allenby (Aus) 69 72, R Green (Aus) 70 71. 142 T Watson (US) 72 70, J Luiten (Neth) 73 69, L Oosthuizen (SA) 72 70, H Frazar (US) 72 70, K Ferrie 71 71, M Wilson (US) 74 68, R Barnes (US) 68 74, P Uihlein (US) 71 71, Jung-Gon Hwang (S Kor) 68 74, B Haas (US) 72 70, T Immelman (SA) 70 72, J Rose 72 70, J Furyk (US) 72 70, B V Pelt (US) 73 69. 143 F De Vries (Neth) 70 73, G Woodland (US) 75 68, S Khan 71 72, M Millar (Aus) 71 72, P Lawrie 73 70, K J Choi (Kor) 71 72, P Casey 74 69, G Bourdy (Fr) 73 70, E Molinari (It) 69 74, H Stenson (Swe) 72 71, F Andersson Hed (Swe) 68 75, G Havret (Fr) 72 71, R Moore (US) 69 74. The following players failed to make the cut: 144 T Aiken (SA) 74 70, R Fisher 71 73, D Willett 69 75, B Macpherson (Aus) 71 73, G Storm 70 74, P Hanson (Swe) 73 71, H Mahan (US) 75 69, JB Holmes (US) 69 75, J Leonard (US) 70 74, B Crane (US) 71 73, S O'Hair (US) 73 71, R Kulacz (Aus) 74 70, A Canizares (Sp) 73 71, P Harrington 73 71, L Westwood 71 73. 145 N Watney (US) 74 71, A Noren (Swe) 69 76, G McDowell 68 77, P Whiteford 70 75, M Manassero (It) 73 72, C Villegas (Col) 71 74, B Snedeker (US) 75 70. 146 J Daly (US) 72 74, R Karlsson (Swe) 72 74, J Dufner (US) 74 72, L Donald 71 75, A Cabrera (Arg) 72 74, K Streelman (US) 76 70. 147 C Hoffman (US) 72 75, G Ogilvy (Aus) 74 73, J Knutzon (US) 75 72, P Meesawat (Tha) 72 75, T Olesen (Den) 73 74, L Corfield 72 75, M Laird 72 75, I Poulter 69 78, M Maritz (SA) 73 74
148 F Molinari (It) 73 75, B Langer (Ger) 75 73, L Bjerregaard (Den) 73 75, R Garrigus (US) 74 74, T Takayama (Japan) 70 78, M Calcavecchia (US) 69 79, E Els (SA) 72 76, Sang-moon Bae (Kor) 72 76, T Hiratsuka (Japan) 75 73. 149 K Na (US) 74 75, M Laskey 73 76, K Barnes (Aus) 68 81, B Kennedy (Aus) 77 72, J Byrd (US) 75 74, S Lyle 73 76. 150 A Baddeley (Aus) 77 73, N Green (Aus) 74 76, S Marino (US) 74 76, T Shadbolt 74 76, S Jamieson 75 75. 151 B Davis 75 76, B Curtis (US) 77 74, Matt Kuchar (US) 74 77, Chih-bing Lam (Sin) 76 75, H Fujita (Japan) 75 76, T Jaidee (Tha) 75 76. 152 B Estes (US) 74 78, M O'Meara (US) 76 76, Kyung-Tae Kim (S Kor) 75 77. 153 J Kelly (US) 74 79, A Johnston 74 79, F McGuirk 77 76, P Marksaeng (Tha) 76 77, R Davies 75 78, A Wootton 71 82. 154 R Ishikawa (Japan) 74 80, A Smith 81 73, A Quiros (Sp) 75 79. 155 H Kawai (Japan) 75 80, D Duval (US) 78 77. 156 T Hamilton (US) 77 79. 157 M Brier (Aut) 77 80. 161 S Edwards (US) 82 79. 169 C Hinton 82 87
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