When it comes to holding aloft precious cargo this weekend Ross Fisher could have his hands full, with or without the Claret Jug. There is no guarantee that Fisher, despite being handily placed on the leaderboard, will even complete the 138th Open. As soon as news arrives that his pregnant wife Jo is going into labour, the 28-year-old Wentworth professional will be on a private plane from Prestwick to Farnborough.
The due date was on Tuesday but after Fisher completed 36 holes in scores of 69 and 68 to be three under par, the fairytale finish would see him holding both the new born and the Open trophy by Monday morning. Out in the worst of yesterday morning's conditions, Fisher produced a rare sub-par round and after signing his card, rose further up the leaderboard while others still struggled out on the links. Back home in Cheam, Jo had to leave the television for a doctor's appointment.
Fisher's situation mirrors that of Phil Mickelson at the 1999 US Open when he carried a pager and also vowed to leave the course the moment he was required elsewhere. He contended until the very last hole before losing to Payne Stewart's birdie. Had he forced a play-off the next day, he could not have stayed for it.
"I'd love to be here for all four days but obviously my wife comes first," Fisher said. "If she were to go into labour later this evening or tomorrow I've got no choice. I want to be there. It's going to be a great experience and one that I don't want to miss."
But if the baby were to hang on a couple more days, or to arrive outside of Fisher's weekend tee-times, then an even greater story remains a hope. "Maybe this is an inspiration, perhaps it is driving me on to hopefully win a major championship and then see Jo give birth to our first child. It would be a fairytale but obviously it is out of my hands. Hopefully it will hold off for another couple of days and I can play two more good rounds."
Thoughts of Fisher winning a maiden major are far from fanciful. He may have won only twice on the European Tour but he looked comfortable in his debut at the Masters in April and highly impressive when almost winning the US Open last month.
A fifth-place finish at Bethpage, one ahead of Tiger Woods and three behind the winner Lucas Glover, showed Fisher that his "game is ready to win the biggest and best tournaments". His long game was superb but he did not get rewarded on the greens. Here he has taken command on the closing stretch, birdieing the last three holes on Thursday and the 15th, 16th and 17th holes yesterday.
Two other strongly-fancied English players have not lived up to expectations. Ian Poulter, who at Royal Birkdale last year saw only one person ahead of him on the leaderboard, finished with hardly anybody behind him at 14 over par. "I didn't hit any decent shots," he said. "If you are going to play that badly it doesn't matter where you play. I would have missed the cut on the easiest municipal playing like that. I could have had a set of spades in my bag this week and I still wouldn't have found the middle of the greens."
Meanwhile, Paul Casey, the world No 3, missed an 18-inch tap-in on the fifth and snapped his driver in frustration on the eighth before finishing the day at four over par and just making the cut. "It had lasted four years so it has had a good innings," he said.
Shot of the day
Tom Watson's birdie putt on the 18th. Not quite as long as his 75ft putt on the 16th but far more dramatic. He and his 17-year-old playing partner Matteo Manassero were just off the green almost equidistant from the hole and they jokingly disputed who was furthest away. The young Italian went first but it was Watson's brilliant putt that brought the grandstand to its feet.
Duff of the day
As if Paul Casey did not have enough problems as he fell from two-under to four-over, he really did not need to miss a "tap-in" from 18 inches on the fifth. Casey did not mark it and could not take a proper stance, but he claimed the error did not arise out of frustration. However, the broken driver on the eighth tee most definitely did.
Nightmare of the day
Last year's runner-up Ian Poulter came into the Open as Britain's most fancied contender but in the event crashed out at 14-over. Yesterday's 79 was his worst ever round in the Open. "Horrible, horrible," he said. "The week's finished and thank God. I didn't hit a golf shot for two days. Were the pin positions to blame? Er, no. For me it was the green positions."Reuse content