McGinleyis the hottest of them all

Golf: THE 125TH OPEN CHAMPIONSHIP: Nicklaus moves within one stroke of the leaders as Faldo consolidates his challenge
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The Independent Online
TIM GLOVER

reports from Royal Lytham

Paul McGinley, who has never won on the European Tour and who has never even made the half-way cut in the Open Championship, shared the lead with the American Tom Lehman last night at eight under par, a stroke in front of a more familiar figure, the 56 year old Jack Nicklaus. The 125th Open is possibly the hottest on record and that happens to be the perfect balm for Jack's troublesome back.

McGinley, a 29-year-old Dubliner, missed a four-foot putt at the 18th that would have given him a course record 64. The highlight of his extraordinary round was a hole in one at the ninth where he hit a soft 7 iron that flew about eight feet to the right of the flag and then disappeared into the hole with a touch of Irish side spin. He also had four birdies on the front nine which he covered in 29 strokes.

The portents were hardly good for McGinley when he was one of those blown away in the Scottish Open at Carnoustie and last Saturday night he made the long drive down to prepare for qualifying at St Annes Old Links. "Something clicked on Sunday morning and I started to get my rhythm back," McGinley said. He shot 66 in the first round of qualifying. "Nobody was as surprised as me."

McGinley was born in 1966, the year Nicklaus won the first of his three Open titles. It was at Muirfield and Nicklaus won with an aggregate of two under. In those days he was called Ohio Fats and by casting a shadow over Arnold Palmer he was not the all-American pin-up boy. Palmer, of course, played in his last Open 12 months ago and Nicklaus has taken up the torch for the Golden Oldies.

At the beginning of the year Nicklaus doubted whether he would play here because of indifferent form; on Wednesday there was an even greater doubt as he did what a lot of people in their mid-fifties do - he awoke complaining of a bad back. Yesterday he hit a four iron to within eight feet of the first hole and tapped in the putt for a birdie two. The Golden Bear's balmy army was on the march, armed with sun block, sunglasses and a variety of headgear that would put Royal Ascot in the shade.

It was a worthwhile crusade. Nicklaus had another two at the ninth and he went to the turn in 32. He had further birdies at the 10th and 14th and when he walked down the 18th fairway they gave him a standing ovation. He doffed his cap, complete with the Golden Bear logo, and had he made a six-foot putt at the last he would have shot 65, equalling his lowest round in an Open.

Jack's back? "I got up at 5.45am, did my exercises and felt all right. Three putts on the back nine spun out, really good putts. I can't be too unhappy can I? When I putt well I can be a match for anyone. My problem the next couple of days will be managing myself, not my game. To have a chance I have to drive the ball well."

Nicklaus would not have played here had he thought he would not make the cut. "I don't want to play two rounds and take a spot away from someone," he said. "I know what playing well feels like and I know what my game is like when I play well. I know how I am mentally and how my composure is and I am pretty near with those elements even if I'm not hitting the ball that well."

Also on seven under is Peter Hedblom, who equalled the course record of 65, and Ernie Els, and a stroke further back is Nick Faldo, who had a second 68. "I'm in a good position," Faldo said. "I'm chipping away and it will get tougher over the weekend. Judging the bounce, that's the key. The shots were good, the irons were good. This is a thinking man's course and I'm enjoying the atmosphere. You want the adrenalin to flow." Faldo who, like Nicklaus has three Open championships to his name, had four birdies and a solitary bogey, at the short 12th where he three putted.

Hedblom has hardly made a cut since winning the Moroccan Open at the beginning of the year but he said: "I always thought I could do this," Hedblom said. "It's not a surprise for me." Nor would the Swede be surprised if Nicklaus won the championship. "Even at 56 his head is so good he knows how to play smart golf and around this course you really need to use your head. He has got the best mind in golf, ever," Hedblom said.

Els, who added a 67 to a 68, said he wanted the wind to blow to "put the players in the real world and make it a tournament not just for those making a few putts". The South African did not have Nicklaus in mind. "He is having a great week," Els said. "It's phenomenal, unbelievable really. He has the chance to win. He has won a couple of these things so he knows what to do."

Unlike John Daly, Els could put the trophy to the use for which it was intended. Daly, the defending champion, shot 73 that included a double bogey six at the 15th where he drove out of bounds. "I didn't know there was an out of bounds down there," the former Wild Thing admitted. So much for homework. "That hurt a lot," Daly said,"but it was a horrible round of golf. My putter is what's killing me. When you stand over a four footer and you're hoping you're going to make it rather than knowing you're going to make it, it's tough."

Carl Mason got to eight under with five holes to play, but had a triple bogey at the 17th and a bogey at the last to finish with a 70. "I just wish those final holes would disappear," Mason said. "If they gave me a couple of shots each day on the last holes then I might have a chance." At the 17th he drove into a bunker and then found an unplayable lie in a gorse bush.

The cut was made at one over par which gave Daly a reprieve but Colin Montgomerie, the second favourite behind Faldo at the start of the championship, Ian Woosnam, Seve Ballesteros, Sam Torrance and Gary Player were among those who did not survive.

"I tend to leave my worst golf of the year for the third week in July," Monty said, referring to his poor record in the Open. This was his seventh appearance and the fourth time he has missed the cut.

More reports, page 27

Second-round scores from Royal Lytham

(GB or Irl unless stated)

* denotes amateur

134

P McGinley 69 65

T Lehman (US) 67 67

135

J Nicklaus (US) 69 66

P Hedblom (Swe) 70 65

E Els (SA) 68 67

136

V Singh (Fiji) 69 67

C Pavin (US) 70 66

N Faldo 68 68

M McCumber (US) 67 69

P Harrington 68 68

M O'Meara (US) 67 69

L Roberts (US) 67 69

137

M Brooks (US) 67 70

F Couples (US) 67 70

P Broadhurst 65 72

138

S Maruyama (Japan) 68 70

D Clarke 70 68

C Mason 68 70

D Gilford 71 67

M James 70 68

H Tanaka (Japan) 67 71

139

J Furyk (US) 68 71

P Mitchell 71 68

R Mediate (US) 69 70

B Hughes (Aus) 70 69

J Maggert (US) 69 70

G Norman (Aus) 71 68

M Welch 71 68

140

S Simpson (US) 71 69

M Calcavecchia (US) 72 68

M McNulty (Zimb) 69 71

A Cejka (Ger) 73 67

S Lyle 71 69

B Faxon 67 73

141

E Romero (Arg) 70 71

C Rocca (It) 71 70

T Woods* (US) 75 66

B Crenshaw (US) 73 68

N Price (Zimb) 68 73

T Hamilton (US) 71 70

J Parnevik (Swe) 72 69

G Turner (NZ) 72 69

S Stricker (US) 71 70

142

R Boxall 72 70

M Jonzon (Swe) 69 73

F Nobilo (NZ) 70 72

C Stadler (US) 71 71

C Suneson (Sp) 73 69

D A Russell 70 72

R Allenby (Aus) 74 68

B Mayfair (US) 70 72

P Jacobsen (US) 72 70

D Frost (SA) 70 72

J Haas (US) 70 72

J Sluman (US) 72 70

R Chapman 72 70

E Darcy 73 69

143

D Duval (US) 76 67

B Ogle (Aus) 70 73

B Barnes 73 70

J Daly (US) 70 73

S Ames (Trin) 71 72

P Mickelson (US) 72 71

C Strange (US) 71 72

R Goosen (SA) 72 71

R Todd (Can) 74 69

G Law 74 69

D Hospital (Sp) 75 68

K Eriksson (Swe) 68 75

A Langenaeken (Bel) 72 71

P Stewart (US) 70 73

T Tolles (US) 73 70

B Charles (NZ) 71 72

T Kite (US) 77 66

D A Weibring (US) 71 72

H Clark 72 71

J Payne 72 71

DID NOT MAKE CUT

144

S Luna (Sp) 72 72

B Lane 71 73

M Farry (Fr) 70 74

P Walton 72 72

S Grappasonni (It) 71 73

R Willison 72 72

D Feherty 77 67

S Torrance 72 72

B Estes (US) 73 71

145

W Austin (US) 72 73

S Elkington (Aus) 75 70

C Parry (Aus) 74 71

J Coceres (Arg) 72 73

J Rivero (Sp) 74 71

F Zoeller (US) 70 75

L Westwood 71 74

P O'Malley (Aus) 73 72

S Murphy (US) 76 69

146

W Bladon* 73 73

A Coltart 72 74

M Mackenzie 71 75

R McFarlane 73 73

S Jones (US) 73 73

Y Kaneko (Japan) 73 73

P Senior (Aus) 74 72

P Eales 73 73

T Johnstone (Zimb) 70 76

D Love III (US) 72 74

B McColl 74 72

147

T Price (Aus) 77 70

J Leonard (US) 79 68

S Higashi (Japan) 75 72

P-U Johansson (Swe) 70 77

G Brand Jnr 72 75

G Player (SA) 71 76

I Woosnam 75 72

S Tinning (Den) 72 75

C Montgomerie 73 74

A Forsbrand (Swe) 75 72

S Allan* (Aus) 75 72

M Litton 72 75

A Sherborne 73 74

148

S Bottomley 76 72

M Florioli (It) 71 77

D J Russell 77 71

W Westner (SA) 78 70

S Field 72 76

H Meshiai (Japan) 76 72

A Lebouc (Fr) 72 76

G Emerson 76 72

149

S Cage 74 75

T Herron (US) 74 75

J Robson 75 74

S Garcia* (Sp) 76 73

T Bjorn (Den) 73 76

W Riley (Aus) 73 76

J Haeggman (Swe) 72 77

D Borrego (Sp) 74 75

I Steel 72 77

F Tarnaud (Fr) 74 75

150

A Oldcorn 77 73

J Townsend (US) 72 78

B Watts (US) 80 70

M A Jimenez (Sp) 75 75

R Lee 77 73

151

L Janzen (US) 74 77

P Azinger (US) 74 77

M Hallberg (Swe) 79 72

A Mednick (Swe) 75 76

152

B Tway (US) 79 73

S Ballesteros (Sp) 74 78

R Drummond 78 74

154

G Brown 74 80

155

P Lawrie 78 77

157

K Fukunaga (Japan) 76 81

162

I Baker-Finch (Aus) 78 84

Disqualified: M Campbell (NZ), D Smyth

Withdrew: B Langer (Ger)

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