Colin Montgomerie back in mix but rues '˜ten chances' at course record
Most of Monty’s rivals would have been satisfied with a blemish-free four-under-par 68. Not the 55-year-old Scot who has his heart set on being crowned an Open champion at the home of golf.
He was furious with himself for squandering what he considered to be no fewer than ten chances to threaten the course record 61 established by Englishman Ross Fisher at last year’s Dunhill Links Championship.
“There are no positives at all, it’s all negatives in my world. There’s a wee black cloud that follows me around all over the place,” he whinged. “It was terrible, bloody awful.
“I had ten chances; 15 feet was probably the worst, and I missed them all. I’m very disappointed because I have never played better tee to green and I hit the ball exactly where I wanted to at most holes. I just didn’t hole out.
“I had a golden opportunity to put a low score together. I’m talking about low, low 60s, which would have put me right up there. That was a low score that was left out there, and, ach, it’s annoying, because I’ve left myself a lot to do.
“Don’t get me wrong, 68 is good, but it should have been a lot lower. Now I need to do better tomorrow, a lot better. But, hey, never mind there’s two rounds to go and if I can putt well over the weekend I have a chance.”
Compatriot Sandy Lyle, pictured right, had no such complaint as he reflected on his round of 66 to sit alongside Monty on five-under-par after being in danger of missing the cut when he opened with a 73.
The two-time major winner rallied in spectacular style after an 85-minute early morning weather delay caused by a notorious east coast haar that resulted in the final group teeing off at 6pm.
Lyle’s best-ever score at St Andrews included four birdies in the first five holes followed by another at the 11th and an eagle three at the 14th. His only blemish was a dropped shot at 16.
Having previously broken 70 in the event only four times in nine attempts to win a second Claret Jug following his Open triumph at Sandwich in 1985, Lyle was understandably delighted.
Lyle must win this weekend to gain automatic entry into next year’s Open at Royal Portrush after losing his exempt status on reaching 60 and he is allowing himself to dream, albeit he confessed: “I think it might hit me if I’m leading with two or three holes to go.
“But it will be lovely all the same if it happens, not that we can afford to get too far ahead of ourselves. Right now, I’m just happy to be in the thick of the battle.
“I knew I needed to shoot under par today to have a chance of making the cut so that’s a good score momentum-wise.
“Since I’ve started trying to draw the ball a little bit more, especially with the irons, I’ve been hitting better distances and keeping it down in winds, which is good.
“That’s pretty much my most satisfying round here. To get it on the top shelf on 17, not far from the hole, after making an eagle on 14, was a real bonus.”
Miguel Angel Jimenez produced a grandstand finish to grab a one-shot lead over the trio of Americans Kirk Triplett and Jeff Sluman and defending champion Bernhard Langer.
The Spaniard followed an eagle 3 at the 14th with back-to-back birdies for a 67 and a nine-under-par total.
He was joined on nine under by Canadian Stephen Ames, who birdied three successive holes from the 14th before play was suspended due to darkness when he had one hole left to play
Triplett had cursed a bogey at the last that cost him the lead as the shadows were lengthening.
His 71 meant he briefly shared the lead as several big names threatened to bear down on them in the gloaming and others resigned themselves to returning to the Old Course at 7am to complete their second rounds.