British hopes of an Open win at Royal Birkdale next week were set back yesterday by events unrelated to this final warm-up event, the Scottish Open. But Luke Donald's Open withdrawal with a wrist injury that will keep him out of action for at least three weeks might well have an impact on someone here. Or more precisely, someone who was here until he missed the cut last night. Colin Montgomerie.
Donald is likely to miss not only the Open but the USPGA. He is therefore doubtful to be in a position to win the ranking points he needs to be automatically selected for Nick Faldo's Ryder Cup team. With even Monty himself saying last week that Donald and Padraig Harrington would be his own wild-card picks, ahead of himself, if they did not qualify by right, Donald's injury may yet damage Monty's own Ryder Cup ambitions.
The Scot certainly was in no need of such bad news after a round of 75 peppered with bogey blue. "There's a thin line between success and failure," he grimaced, before heading home to Perthshire for the weekend rather than going straight to Birkdale to start preparing for the Open.
Back to matters here. Even another biblical downpour could not distract the field as an Angel took the lead, and three other crowd-pleasers – Phil Mickelson, Paul Lawrie and Thomas Bjorn – made comebacks to rival Lazarus. Angel Cabrera will tee off this afternoon in the lead on nine under par after carding a three-under 68 to take a one-shot lead over Ireland's Damien McGrane, who shot a 66.
Lurking in the pack is Lawrie, the 1999 Open winner at Carnoustie who has not won a tour event for six years but carded a 67 to move to seven-under overall. On the same mark is a Bjorn-again Dane, Thomas, the winner here in 1996. His multiple illnesses and injuries, most recently a shoulder problem and food poisoning, did not prevent a 68.
That pair are intent on hauling careers back on track, but Mickelson had the most dramatic Friday turnaround. After 13 holes, he was par for the day and the tournament and on his way to missing the cut. That would have been not only embarrassing but would also have cost him two days' competitive Open practice.
But he holed in one at the par-three fifth (he started on the back nine) and followed that with birdie, par, par, birdie for a four-under 67 and a weekend to play for. Ernie Els, after a 66, is also four-under overall, while Lee Westwood's 69 keeps him right in contention.
Mickelson, the leftie world No 2, said that his ace "kick-started my round, I wasn't doing much at that point." The 38-year-old's five iron from 198 yards pitched about 10 feet short and rolled in to huge cheers that alerted the unsighted player as to the fate of his ball.
Bjorn needs a top-five finish here to qualify for the Open, but is taking nothing for granted. He is still getting used to a long putter as a solution to a bad case of the yips. "It is all right on the practice green, but when you go out and play with it for the first time in a tournament you feel a bit strange."
Lawrie, 39, was understandably delighted to be going into today's third round in contention. His last Tour win was the Wales Open of 2002 and he admitted that even his wife, Marian, and his sons, Craig and Robert, give him a hard time when he is not winning. "Oh, you'd better believe it," he said. "By God, daddy's been useless for a while so it would be nice to get a win on the board to shut them up a wee bit."
The Aberdonian is currently ranked No264 in the world and has not had a top-10 finish anywhere this season.
Lawrie's family will not be present today. They have a prior engagement at an Aberdeen-Manchester United friendly at Pittodrie to celebrate the Dons' 1983 Cup-Winners' Cup win over Real Madrid. A Paul Lawrie Select XI will play a half-time charity match, without their main man.
Scottish Open second-round scores
Leading scores (GB or Irl unless stated): 133 A Cabrera (Arg) 65 68. 134 D McGrane 68 66. 135 Paul Lawrie 68 67; T Bjorn (Den) 67 68; R Green (Aus) 67 68; T Jaidee (Thai) 64 71; S Khan 69 66. 136 J M Singh (Ind) 68 68; R Dinwiddie 68 68; M Millar (Aus) 72 64; D Lynn 69 67; L Westwood 67 69; H Stenson (Swe) 67 69. 137 F Molinari (It) 69 68; C Cevaer (Fr) 70 67; G Houston 66 71; M Erlandsson (Swe) 67 70; R Fisher 68 69; G McDowell 67 70; O Wilson 71 66; M Lafeber (Neth) 67 70; J Bickerton 66 71; O Fisher 68 69; F Andersson Hed (Swe) 70 67; A Noren (Swe) 64 73; M A Jimenez (Sp) 68 69; J-F Lucquin (Fr) 72 65. 138 P Sjoland (Swe) 67 71; A Scott (Aus) 72 66; S Strange (Aus) 70 68; P Edberg (Swe) 68 70; P Hedblom (Swe) 70 68; J Edfors (Swe) 67 71; P Mickelson (US) 71 67; D Dixon 68 70; E Els (SA) 72 66; I Poulter 69 69; J-F Remesy (Fr) 70 68; G Murphy 68 70; G Bourdy (Fr) 70 68; M Foster 68 70. 139 D Howell 69 70; S Kjeldsen (Den) 73 66; C Rodiles (Sp) 69 70; Peter Lawrie 71 68; M Brown (US) 73 66; S Wakefield 71 68; M Mamat (Sing) 69 70; A Quiros (Sp) 69 70; R McIlroy 70 69; D Drysdale 68 71; T Whitehouse 68 71; A Romero (Arg) 68 71; R McGowan 69 70; G Havret (Fr) 69 70. 140 H Otto (SA) 71 69; J Kingston (SA) 70 70; A McLardy (SA) 70 70; A Wall 70 70; I Pyman 69 71; A Oldcorn 71 69; S Gallacher 72 68; A Canizares (Sp) 73 67; A Forsyth 73 67; P McGinley 70 70.