Like Jordan Spieth, winner of the first two major championships of the year, amateur Paul Kinnear is 21 years old. Both are playing on the Old Course for the first time in an Open Championship and, like the world No 2, Kinnear had a varied sporting upbringing. While Spieth played basketball and baseball at school, Kinnear was a midfielder in Tranmere Rovers’ youth teams until the age of 16.
On Thursday, they both had the experience of birdieing the 11th hole to go six under par. Spieth, the Masters and US Open champion, is enjoying one of the finest seasons a golfer could possibly put together so it is probably a good bet that he has not been threatened by his mum with getting a job as a van driver.
This happened to Kinnear recently and if it was a genuine attempt at parental psychology, the verbal kick up the rear has done the Formby golfer no end of good. He immediately earned a place at the Open from final qualifying, winning a play-off for the last spot at Glasgow Gailes.
On Friday he was inspired by the surroundings and the presence of the game’s greatest players. “At the fourth I saw Spieth was six under after 12 and thought ‘I’d love to see my name up on the board’,” he said. Three birdies in a row from the seventh plus another at the short 11th and he was only one stroke off the lead. “I was pumped and saw a leaderboard at the 12th. It was a fantastic feeling to see my name up there with all them,” he said.
Despite dropping four strokes in the last six holes, Kinnear was so excited about his maiden round of 70 in the Open. “To finish at two under, I really pleased, especially with the front nine,” he said. “I hit all the shots I saw and holed all the putts I looked at. I wasn’t nervous. I just wish I could go out and play another 18 again now.”
Kinnear will have to wait a while yet for a second dose of the elixir that is playing in an Open at the home of golf. Though one of his playing partners, the professional Tyrrell Hatton, also had a double bogey at the 17th and was disappointed also to finish with a 70, Kinnear shrugged off the misfortunate of a six at the Road Hole. A lot worse has happened to more celebrated golfers on the brute of a hole – past champion Mark Calcavecchia had a nine there on Thursday.
“I don’t think I have ever parred it in the 10 times I’ve played here,” Kinnear cheerfully admitted, having played in amateur events at St Andrews. “I just don’t know how to play the hole.”
An eagle at the 10th hole, which was reachable for the long hitters in the afternoon when the wind got up, propelled Yorkshire’s Danny Willett to a 66. Becoming ever more comfortable on the biggest stages, the 27-year-old birdied the first three holes and finished by holing a long putt for a three at the last to record his best ever score in now four Open appearances.
Luke Donald posted a 68 after going to the turn in 32 during the calm of the early morning and then parring his way home. He made some fine saves on the difficult inward stretch, not least from under the lip of the Road Bunker at the 17th.
“That was almost worth two strokes,” he said. “It was touch and go whether I thought I could get it out. It felt like a good enough lie to take it on and be able to get it over the lip, and it came out perfectly.”
Ian Poulter could not take advantage of the easy scoring in the morning, going out in 37. By the time he reached the turn, only one player had scored higher for the front nine. He finished with a 73 and told his Twitter followers that he was “beyond disappointed to play well and not hole the putts that you expect to”.
Lee Westwood, the runner-up five years ago to Louis Oosthuizen, was in striking distance of the top until he bogeyed the last three. He three-putted from the Valley of Sin at the last to return a 71. “I turned a good round into an average one,” he admitted.Reuse content