OK, this is starting to get a little more surreal.
A 53-year-old former great who rarely even practices, let alone plays, is contending in the British Open still.
Greg Norman, who probably hasn’t been called the Shark in a decade, had it to 1 under and was the lone player under par until a bogey on 17 in his morning round. He finished still atop the leaderboard by one shot over several players when he completed his round.
Can this really happen? Can the Shark really come out of nowhere and do something even more amazing than Jack Nicklaus winning the Masters at age 46 in 1986? Could Norman actually pull this off and win? He’s been the best player through a day-and-a-half? Really?
Or could this set up to be something even worse? Imagine if Norman comes to Sunday with the lead, imagine if he hits the turn with the lead, imagine, just imagine, if he finds a way to blow a lead late.
Could he be setting himself for another inglorious fall? Another choke?
With play finished for the day, K.J. Choi sits atop the leaderboard as the lone player under par at 1 under, good enough for a 1-shot edge over Greg Norman entering the weekend.
Choi is one of the best players in the world, so his ascension to the top perch on the board after 36 holes is really no surprise. He played in the final pairing last year heading into the weekend with Sergio Garcia, but finished eighth. Still, it’s certainly not shocking to see him leading, and he’s tough with a 36-hole lead. According to ESPN, Choi has held the weekend lead six times on Tour in his career. The results? Five wins and a second.
Following him, though? Double Wow. Norman (see above) is the story of the tournament, but Story 1A is 2001 Open champion Duval, who lost his game like Steve Blass lost his control on the mound. Duval got as low as 1 over and a shot off the pace late in his round but finished with a 1-under 69 to complete Friday at 2 over for the championship and only three shots back.
You can start the what-could-have-beens now. After limping to a 9-over 79 to start his tournament in brutal weather conditions, Phil Mickelson rallied with a 68 on Friday to move to 7 over for the tournament and easily within the cut line of 9 over. Nice playing, but like I mentioned earlier today (see below), don’t give Lefty too much credit — Duval played in the same stuff both days and is only 2 over. And his game isn’t anywhere near the level of Lefty’s.
That said, the weather forecast for Saturday is grim. If the bad stuff holds off until the afternoon, Lefty could pull another 68 in the morning and find himself zooming up the leaderboard for Sunday. It’s his only hope.
Ernie Els made the cut on the button thanks to a 69 on Friday.
Davis Love III slipped into the weekend on the number while Colin Montgomerie will hang around at 8 over.
How about Lee Westwood’s play as a top favorite this week? 9 over and limping into the weekend.
Goodbye Ogilvy. Goodbye Singh. Both 11 over.
What a disaster for Mike Weir. Cruising in contention most of the day on Friday, he triple-bogeyed 15 and bogeyed 16 on his way to a back-nine 40. He falls to 7 over and in a tie for 38th.
Hey, at least Daly broke 90, although only by a shot. T153 at 29 over.
That’s last place.
What year is it?
The reason I ask is because Greg Norman leads the British Open, and who is one shot back and 2 under through 11 holes?
None other than David Duval.
Duval was once the No. 1 player in the world and looked like he and Tiger Woods would be rivals until the end. He shot a 59, won the Open Championship, lost a bunch of weight and lost his game faster than Ian Baker Finch did. He’s made all of one cut this entire season, and here he is, back on British soil and contending as if it’s 1999.
Can you imagine a Norman and Duval final pairing on Sunday?
Paddy Harrington said on Wednesday that if this were any other tournament, he would’ve already left for home because of his sore wrist.
Harrington battled through tough conditions on Thursday to hang around at 4 over, then fired the second-best round of the day on Friday, closing strong with a 68 to vault to 2 over and just three shots back. He’s tied for fifth with a bad wrist.
Meanwhile, Adam Scott, who had a bad hand and soured at the U.S. Open, slumped to a 4-over 74 on Friday.
K.J. Choi. I’m telling you. Keep an eye on him. He’s moving up fast.
Graeme McDowell — See above.
Lefty is desperately trying to make the cut, and is 1 under through 12 so far today to move to 8 over. He deserves credit if he makes it to the weekend.
But not too much. For all the talk about the bad luck of the early draw in the harsh weather on Thursday, all one needs to do is look at Duval. He played through it and is contending with a game that has been among the game’s worst in the last five years.
Sergio Garcia needs to make a move on Saturday to have a chance or hope to get a break with the weather. He’s at 5 over, five back of Norman, but, ahem, four back of maybe the real leaders.
The real Retief Goosen showed up on Friday, shooting a 75. This guy has simply not been the same since he gave away the 2005 U.S. Open at Pinehurst.
Some quick hits:
See ya, Brandt. Tough day.
I like the way Mike Weir grinds.
How about Jean Van de Velde?
The more I look at this leaderboard, the more I like Furyk.
Ernie Els — See Lefty.
Surprising to me that they’re going home for the weekend: Vijay, Hunter Mahan, Miguel Angel Jimenez and Geoff Ogilvy.
Least surprising? John Daly is currently last in the field.
And he’s not done yet.
Camillo Villegas gives Phil Mickelson, Ernie Els and Vijay Singh hope. Villegas went out early on Friday and jammed a 5-under 65, rocketing to within a shot of the lead at 1 over.
Rocco Mediate is still hanging around. He finished with a 3-over 73 to fall to 2 over for the tournament, but he’s still right there.
Jim Furyk closes with another 71 and is also at 2 over. He’s put himself into position.
Brandt Snedeker needs another big back nine. He’s getting dangerously close to missing the cut, falling to 4 over for the day and 6 over for the tournament through just 10 holes.