If you don't like it don't come, Love tells whining Americans

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The Independent Online

If there was anything clear and uncomplicated to emerge from the buffeting Royal Birkdale took yesterday it was that despite all that wind the lowest front nine of the tournament so far was recorded.

It came from Ben Curtis of the United States who took the gusts in his stride as he scored a commendable 31 which included an eagle gained with an nine-iron from 165 yards.

Curtis was thus helped to a round of 70 which wasn't bettered all day and was equalled by another American, Davis Love 111.

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In addition, Anthony Kim, the 23 year old whizz kid from the States, produced a 71 which puts him alongside the former Open winner Curtis at seven-over and at least gives America a more prominent place in today's mad scramble for the finishing line than had seemed possible.

Indeed, the welcome decrease in the amount of bellyaching about the weather bouncing around the locker room yesterday was principally due to the fact that 19 Americans had gone home.

They missed the cut on Friday and hurried back to balmier climes.

Not all of them left cursing the coastline of west Lancashire for wrecking their games but enough did to cause Davis Love to send a message after them.

'If you don't like it, don't come,' he said. 'This is the oldest and biggest tournament in the world and I'm happy to be here. It m ay be frustrating but you always learn something and I'll go back energised and excited by how I played here.'

At nine under Love was not speaking from a lofty pulpit but he had just completed a level par 70 that turned out to be one of the best rounds of the day.

Love has played in each of the last 22 Opens and his deep respect for the tournament is certainly not due to his record here. His highest finish was a tie for fourth place at St George's in 2003.

Whether he can improve on that today can be grouped with all the other imponderables that this tournament has compiled over three days of oscilating fortunes.

No-one can be ruled out or in because what the good Lord gives you on one hole he is likely to take back, plus a little more, as soon as he can get round to it.

What happened to Jim Furyk and David Duval yesterday was painful testimony to the troubles widely available to all.

For a couple of hours the steady and dependable Furyk was the leading US representative held the joint lead by managing that rare accomplishment of reaching halfway with the same score he had started with - two under. Then he hit the skids after the turn and was soon among those free-falling down the leaderboard.

But the biggest disappointment in the American camp surely belonged to David Duval, Since winning the 2001 Open at Royal Lytham, Duval has struggled and it was a genuine pleasure to see him edge his way firmly into contention on Friday.

Partnering Padraig Harrington yesterday he immediately found calamity when his second shot buried itself into an unplayable lie. He took a seven and by the time he reached halfway he was ten over and dropped another three in the second nine.

Rocco Mediate also took backward steps, six to be exact, and what hopes America seem confined to Curtis and Kim.

I suspect it will take a stranger wind to blow away Kim's confidence. He promises to be more aggressive today. He'll hit his driver morfe often and sees no reason 'why I can't make five or six birdies and make a run'.

Curtis has the advantage of a bit of previous in this sort of situation. It was a surging final round of 69 that made him the surprise winner of the 2003 Open at Royal St Georges. But he didn't have as much company as he'll have today.

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