Kendall leads US charge as Monty emerges out of dark - Golf - Sport - The Independent

Kendall leads US charge as Monty emerges out of dark

America was lacking a representative on the leaderboard on the first day of the 133rd Open Championship and Phil Mickelson, Stars and Stripes' man of the moment, responded with a round of 66. But it was a round of the same score by a lesser known countryman, Skip Kendall, which put the United States at the top of the field at a venue where their golfers have won on the past five occasions.

America was lacking a representative on the leaderboard on the first day of the 133rd Open Championship and Phil Mickelson, Stars and Stripes' man of the moment, responded with a round of 66. But it was a round of the same score by a lesser known countryman, Skip Kendall, which put the United States at the top of the field at a venue where their golfers have won on the past five occasions.

The 39-year-old, in only his third Open, was seven-under par and a short nose in front of France's Thomas Levet. Paul Casey, the young Englishman who shared the lead after the first round fell away with a 77, the home hero, Colin Montgomerie, received a rapturous welcome up the 18th worthy of Sunday night's winner as he charged into contention.

Kendall has never won on the US Tour and has lost his card, and regained it often enough. He also lost part of his left index finger last year, slicing it off while cutting a frozen bagel and had to have it sown back on. "I was off for four weeks but actually played better with a new grip afterwards," he said.

Kendall holed out of a bunker at the third and rolled in a 50-footer for an eagle at the 16th. Montgomerie birdied the first two holes and while pottering along at three under suddenly birdied the 15th and the 16th.

But instead of joining Barry Lane and Korea's KJ Choi at five under, Monty three-putted the final green, missing from under three feet for his par, for a 69 and fell back to four under, alongside Ernie Els, Vijay Singh and Michael Campbell.

It was a contrasting day for three of the main contenders. Tiger Woods, playing early in the day could not improve on his overnight status at one under. Later, Els added a second 69, his fifth in a row in Opens on this course, but it could have been better.

For Phil Mickelson, the Masters champion, it was a case of recovering the damage of the opening day he managed more than that.

The American, who birdied four of the first six holes, finished at three under alongside some illustrious names, including his fellow left-hander Mike Weir, his predecessor as an Augusta winner, and US Open champion Retief Goosen, who did not drop a shot in his 70. "We definitely had the good side of the draw," said Els. "It was a bit frustrating because I thought I could get to five or six under." Though not quite in the league of his hole-in-one at the eighth on Thursday, the South African was helped by chipping in for a two at the 14th.

It was not quite the conditions for Woods to make a move when he teed up and he only managed to convert two birdie chances, both on the par-fives of the front nine. But the world No 1 gave those two shots back before the turn and parred the inward half. The fatal errors that have been littered throughout the first two majors of the year have so far been avoided, but when it comes to getting under par he has been stuck in a low gear.

It was a quiet morning generally with only Campbell managing to join Levet and Casey at five under and then slipping back again. The wind was stronger than on the opening day but eased for the afternoon starters. Once the overnight leaders got on the course, events suddenly started to happen.

Casey made the grave error of finding too many of Troon's coffin-like bunkers. At the 3rd he found two of them and it cost him a double-bogey six. The 26-year-old from Surrey, via Arizona, responded well with birdies at the 5th and 7th but then the crash came.

There were four bogeys in a row from the 9th and even then things did not get better but worse when another double-bogey came at the 13th. He did well from there to par the last five holes. Levet was involved in an incident at the very first hole but it did not cost him any strokes.

The Frenchman drove left of the fairway, over the crash barriers which line the first and last holes and almost into an ice cream hut. Levet received a free drop from the overhanging canopy of the hut, after which the referee with the match was attending to Matthew Goggin, one of the other players in the group who required a drop from the barriers by the 18th fairway.

In the meantime, the marshals on the first hole had taken down the barriers in the line of Levet's second shot. Unfortunately, the barriers are deemed immovable obstructions and should not have been flipped on their side. But because Levet had not initiated the action and due to a certain amount of confusion among the player (French), the referee (Japanese) and the marshals (presumably Scottish) no penalty was incurred.

It took a few holes for the all-clear to be given, but in the meantime Levet birdied the 2nd and the par-five 4th to reach seven-under par. The Scottish Open winner bogeyed the 12th but that was his only blemish in a 70 which put him alone in second place at six under.

Lane reached five under with a 68 capped by birdies at the final two holes. In May, the 44-year-old won the British Masters, his first title on the European Tour for 10 years. He has various dodgy parts, including a split meniscus caused by jumping off a wall.

"When you have been out here for 20 odd years you are bound to get aches and pains," he said. He gets going with massages morning and night and has spent more time practising his short game but admitted: "I never know how I am going to play until I tee up on Thursday. I have never been able to peak for one week but I'll be trying my hardest over the weekend.

"I've got no idea how I will handle it but I've learnt an awful lot in the last few years. You are always learning, the game is 95 per cent in the mind. Winning the British Masters after not winning for 10 years gave me a lot of confidence."

Early second-round leaderboard

(GB or Irl unless stated)

-7 S Kendall (US)

-6 T Levet (Fr)

-5 B Lane

-5 KJ Choi (S Kor)

-4 M Campbell (NZ)

-4 V Singh (Fiji)

-4 T Hamilton (US)

-4 E Els (SA)

-4 C Montgomerie

-3 M Weir (Can)

-3 K Perry (US)

-3 R Goosen (SA)

-3 S Verplank (US)

-3 P Mickelson (US)

-2 R Dampling (Aus)

-1 D Clarke

-1 G Emerson

-1 G Evans

-1 D Love III (US)

-1 A Scott (Aus)

-1 T Woods (US)

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