O'Meara makes his mark again - Golf - Sport - The Independent

The Open 2004

O'Meara makes his mark again

Mark O'Meara, one of seven Open champions to survive the cut, moved up the leaderboard as he carded the joint second best round of the day at Royal Troon.

The 47-year-old American, who went round in 68 for a level-par total of 213, then paid homage to the tournament he won at Royal Birkdale six years ago. "I can't tell you how much I enjoy this championship and what this championship means to me," he said. "This to me is the greatest championship, and I feel fortunate to have my name on the Claret Jug. No disrespect to the others, because the Masters, US Open and PGA are fine championships, but this is the way golf should be played. This is where it started. This is the home of golf."

Another former winner to wax lyrical after a sub-par round was Mark Calcavecchia, whose 69 lifted him to 214, one over par. The 44-year-old American, who lifted the title at Troon after a three-way play-off in 1989, declared: "This is one of my favorite golf courses in the world. Historically, when I play well on a course I usually play well on it most of the time."

Calcavecchia had birdied the final hole on Friday to qualify for the final two rounds bang on the cut mark of 145, three over par. "I didn't want to fly home early. I wanted to play two more rounds on my favorite golf course," he said. Justin Leonard, the Texan who won at Troon in 1997 with a closing 65, looked set for a score in the 60s before slipping up near the end for a 71 which left him on 213.

Zimbabwe's Nick Price, who claimed the Old Claret Jug down the coast at Turnberry a decade ago, shared the clubhouse lead for around two hours on 211, two under par, following a consistent 69.

Also on 211 was the English Ryder Cup player Lee Westwood, who had four birdies in his first 10 holes on his way to sparkling 68. "I played very well and hit the ball well in difficult conditions," he said. "A 68 was as many as it could have been but if you'd offered me that at the start I would have taken it."

Another Englishman, the joint first-round leader Paul Casey, bounced back from his disappointing 77 on day two with a one-under-par 70. Afterwards, the 26-year-old from Surrey rued the absence of his American coach, Peter Kostis, who was forced to return to the United States on Friday. "Peter rang me on Friday night and said he felt bad. He felt like he let me down and there were a couple of things he should have said. It was unfortunate he couldn't stay, but it's not his fault."

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