Darren Clarke thanks psychologists after a second 68 gives him a share of the lead
Published 16/07/2011 | 02:02
So wretched is the weather forecast for the next two days, this 140th Open Championship will turn into as much a mental marathon as a technical examination. Perhaps that is why Darren Clarke, one of the halfway pacesetters, has been using not just one sports psychologist here but two.
As crazy as it may sound, Clarke's unprecedented move is thus far leaving the majority of his rivals on the couch. Far from being in two minds, with two different shrinks barking their orders, the 42-year-old has rarely seemed so at ease and single-minded in his purpose. Dr Bob Rotella and Mike Finnigan are the gurus and Clarke has had sessions with both in his effort to land that overdue first major.
Dr Bob also works with McIlroy and would have been pleased with the manner in which the US Open champion responded to the challenge. Going out in the worst of the conditions, the 22-year-old – who in different quarters since his eight-shot record-breaker in the Congressional has been hailed as "the new Tiger" and "the new Messiah" – fired a 69 to haul himself back to level par.
McIlroy came into this major declaring he would be content with two 70s and here he is. Yet McIlroy has not totally convinced this week. There were times yesterday when he seemed about to storm into vision on the scoreboards but each time a bogey arrived. Three in all. There was a brilliant sand save on the last, however, and it will be so intriguing to see how he copes in the upcoming carnage. But within four of the lead he still has a favourite's chance of becoming the first debutant major winner to follow up in his very next major. That thought represented so much more than mere consolation as he walked past the exuberant fans to the locker room.
When he got there he would have found Clarke, his friend and sometime mentor, piling all the praise on Rotella, "an old friend who has helped me think more clearly on the greens".
"I was hitting it alright, but struggling a bit on the greens," added Clarke. "But then I ran into Bob and I just found my feeling." Maybe, in the sake of fairness, he could credit one 68 to Rotella, an American whose clients also include Padraig Harrington, and the other 68 to Finnigan, an Englishman whose clients have included Andrew Flintoff and Jimmy White.
As the field bunched up yesterday it was all too forgivable to weigh up such imponderables. In truth, this was a breather after the first day of high drama. There was Tom Watson's hole-in-one on the sixth to make the galleries reach apoplexy, a response he richly deserved when, at 61, he became the oldest man in the 151-year history of the Championship to make the cut on two over. It was yet another a remarkable feat but still it is fair to deduce that the opening day of fairytales had given way to a rather more earthy reality. This links is tough and it's about to go way past severe. "I've heard what's coming and I don't want to think about it," said Adam Scott after a 70 left him three of the lead.
Winds of 35mph-plus are predicted and they shall come loaded with rain. It will be about coping with wet grips and cruel gusts, as well as all the other nuances which make Sandwich such a comprehensive test. That was evidenced yesterday by a leaderboard which remained pretty static throughout. Birdies were hard to come by; scrambling was the order of the second round. This particularly applied in the afternoon when the breezes rose and the course dried.
A few of the pin placements were on the edges of slopes and the wind had switched to the prevailing south, which meant the layout played exactly as it was intended – difficult. But there were birdies out there, as Clarke proved when moving to four-under to share the lead with Lucas Glover. It was a frenetic display by the Ulsterman who, the common view believed, was years past his best. Five birdies, an eagle, three bogeys, a double bogey and seven pars – consistent it was not. Yet through it all the big man smiled, refusing to allow himself to get too down; or at least restricting his famous temper to the occasional scowl. Impressive stuff.
Yet Glover's no mug. The 2009 US Open champion was the pre-tournament pick of quite a few "experts" on the range. "I've become more comfortable on the links," said Glover, sporting his huge beard. "Originally, I wasn't. I'd get mad if a ball rolled in the bunker or bounced off the green when I hit an average shot." This new perspective, armed with his natural talents, establishes him as a big, big threat. "He loves these greens and is a great driver," said Robert Karlsson. Both could prove critical as the dark clouds move in. In a tie for third is a large group containing the overnight joint-leader, Thomas Bjorn, the American Chad Campbell, the Spaniard Miguel Angel Jimenez and the German Martin Kaymer.
The last-named is, of course, the most ominous figure near the top of the leader board. The world No 3 won last year's USPGA Championship and then rose to world No 1. The last few months have seen him slide a little, but there were signs in France a few weeks ago of a comeback to form. Here his solid beginning has positively screamed of a return to previous excellence. "My putter was very strong," he said after a 69 appended so cosily to a 68. "I am confident. I am striking it well and that will be important when it's very windy If the weather comes then it'll be a battle. And I'm ready for it."
A daunting statement, but with so many players – 60-plus – within seven of the lead, the champion could be lurking down with the supposed also-rans. This truly could be the wide open Open. That means Tom Lewis still boasts an unlikely opportunity. The 20-year-old – who, with his first round 65, became the youngest amateur to lead The Open in 43 years – was disappointed with his 74, but at one-under it hardly constituted a disaster. Lewis actually enjoyed a stroke of luck on the last when his approach flew the green and was only stopped from going out of bounds when hitting a post. "I would have taken being in this position at the start," said Lewis, the youngster who dominated the news coverage yesterday morning. Too damn right he would. Most players in the field would take being in touch with such a lottery feel to proceedings.
But then Lee Westwood stormed out, Colin Montgomerie-style, after a 73 dropped him to four over and Graeme McDowell turned the spotlight within, blaming his own attitude for a 72 which left him stranded on five-over. There were some big names licking wounds, but so many in the hunt for the weekend masses to roar. If they can be heard above the din of the wind and rain, that is. Not to mention all the howling and wailing. Psychologists will be at a premium.
Early second-round scores
(GB or Irl unless stated, par 70) *denotes amateur
136 L Glover (US) 66 70; D Clarke 68 68
137 C Campbell (US) 69 68; T Bjorn (Den) 65 72; M Kaymer (Ger) 68 69
138 C Schwartzel (SA) 71, 67; D Love III (US) 70 68; T Lehman (US) 71 67; G Coetzee (SA) 69 69; P Larrazabal (Sp) 68 70
139 P Mickelson (US) 70 69; J Overton (US) 68 71; A Scott (Aus) 69 70; R Palmer (US) 68 71; T Lewis* 65 74
140 S Stricker (US) 69 71; Z Johnson (US) 72 68; K Stanley (US) 68 72; S Dyson 68 72; W Simpson (US) 66 74; A Kim (US) 72 68; R Rock 69 71; F Jacobson (Swe) 70 70; Y.E. Yang (S Kor) 71 69
141 J Day (Aus) 71 70; S Levin (US) 72 69; R Sabbatini (SA) 71 70; B Watson (US) 69 72; C Howell III (US) 71 70; R Jacquelin (Fr) 74 67; G Boyd 71 70; R Allenby (Aus) 69 72; R Green (Aus) 70 71
142 T Watson (US) 72 70; J Luiten (Neth) 73 69; L Oosthuizen (SA) 72 70; H Frazar (US) 72 70; K Ferrie 71 71; M Wilson (US) 74 68; R Barnes (US) 68 74; Jung-Gon Hwang (S Kor) 68 74; T Immelman (SA) 70 72; J Rose 72 70; J Furyk (US) 72 70
143 F De Vries (Neth) 70 73; G Woodland (US) 75 68; S Khan 71 72; E Molinari (It) 69 74; H Stenson (Swe) 72 71; F Andersson Hed (Swe) 68 75; G Havret (Fr) 72 71; R Moore (US) 69 74
144 T Aiken (SA) 74 70; D Willett 69 75; B Macpherson* (Aus) 71 73; G Storm 70 74; J.B. Holmes (US) 69 75; J Leonard (US) 70 74; B Crane (US) 71 73; A Canizares (Sp) 73 71; P Harrington 73 71; L Westwood 71 73
145 G McDowell 68 77; P Whiteford 70 75; B Snedeker (US) 75 70
146 R Karlsson (Swe) 72 74
147 C Hoffman (US) 72 75; P Meesawat (Thai) 72 75; L Corfield 72 75; J Knutzon (US) 75 72; M Maritz (SA) 73 74
148 B Langer (Ger) 75 73; L Bjerregaard* (Den) 73 75; M Calcavecchia (US) 69 79; R Garrigus (US) 74 74; T Takayama (Japan) 70 78; Sang-moon Bae (S Kor) 72 76
149 K Barnes (Aus) 68 81; B Kennedy (Aus) 77 72; J Byrd (US) 75 74; S Lyle 73 76
150 N Green (Aus) 74 76; S Marino (US) 74 76; S Jamieson 75 75
151 M Kuchar (US) 74 77; Chih-bing Lam (Sing) 76 75; T Jaidee (Thai) 75 76
152 M O'Meara (US) 76 76; Kyung-Tae Kim (S Kor) 75 77
153 J Kelly (US) 74 79; A Johnston 74 79; P Marksaeng (Thai) 76 77; R Davies 75 78; A Wootton 71 82