It might not have been as spectacular as his opening 62 but Retief Goosen’s second round 69 at Loch Lomond was nevertheless enough to maintain the South African’s position at the top of the leaderboard at the halfway stage of The Scottish Open.
The recently-crowned US Open champion started the day three shots clear of the field but ended it with his advantage trimmed by a stroke, nearest challenger being young Australian Adam Scott on nine under par 133 with three players a further two shots adrift on 135, Thomas Björn, Barry Lane and Paul McGinley.
Having started at the tenth hole, Goosen looked set to extend his advantage when he birdied the 13th, 14th and 16th holes to be out in impressive figures of 32. But with the cold setting in as Goosen’s round eventually came to a close at nearly nine o clock at night, he bogeyed the fifth amidst a run of eight par figures to be home in 37.
“The first nine holes were perfect, the weather was fairly warm and calm,” he said. “But the back nine got a little breezy and cold and the greens were very difficult to read – all the spike and heel marks made putting very difficult.
“I missed a couple of chances because it was difficult to get the feel but that is what happens when you are out so late. But the fact I continued to give myself chances was pleasing and so overall I am happy with the way I played. I am looking forward to getting back to a normal time to play golf tomorrow!”
Nearest challenger Adam Scott endured a long but profitable day, getting up at 6am to complete the final two holes of his first round 65 before carding a 68 in the second round for a nine under par total of 133.
It left the Australian again in the shake up of a European Tour event going into the weekend, after having won in the Alfred Dunhill Championship in South Africa earlier in the year before having to concede to Colin Montgomerie in the Murphy’s Irish Open and Peter O’Malley in the Compass Group English Open.
Although the last two occasions were not successful for the 20 year old, he admitted he had taken almost as much on board in terms of experience as he had done during his victory in Johannesburg.
“I’ve learned different things from each tournament I play and I am continuing to learn all the time,” said Scott. “Watching Monty and how he played coming down the stretch in the Irish Open was interesting and I picked up a few pointers from that.
“I also learned from a few of the mental errors I made at the Forest of Arden when I still had a chance of winning going into the last round. So I am looking forward to a good weekend now.”
Certainly if Scott can reproduce the form he showed in flashes during his second round he could pose a serious threat to the US Open champion, the highlight coming in a three hole stretch from the 16th to the 18th where he birdied all three holes.
After starting his round at the tenth hole, the run started at the demanding 470 yard 16th where his four iron approach found the centre of the green and he holed from eight feet for a three, before rolling in a 20 footer for a birdie two at the short 17th.
Scott finished his run with a seven iron to four feet at the 18th before two birdies on the inward half of the course at the second and seventh, completed a highly satisfactory day’s work.
Two shots behind Scott on seven under par 135 were Thomas Björn, Barry Lane and Paul McGinley. Björn and McGinley both carded 67s but the best performance came from Lane who continued his recent run of good form with a superb 65.
The 41 year old Englishman carded five birdies and an eagle in his round and although he dropped a shot at the 18th, his renewed enthusiasm for the game he has graced for the past quarter of a century, remained undaunted.
“I’m enjoying my golf,” said Lane. “I’ve got my old caddie Gary Tilston back after four years and I’m very relaxed. We joined up together at the Deutsche Bank tournament in May and together we know what it is all about. I’m also swinging it well and that’s the key.”
Included in the group of players on six under par 136 was Darren Clarke, who continued the form which saw him lift the Smurfit European Open title at The K Club last Sunday with a 67 and two of the American contingent who have travelled to Scotland, the 1997 champion Tom Lehman and the 1995 Open champion John Daly.
Lehman added a fine 66 to his opening 70 and admitted the delight at travelling to the Bonnie Banks was as strong today as it was four years ago. “I just like the course and I like being here,” he said.
“I don’t know exactly what the course does for me but I know I like the way it sets up and I feel like the shape of the shots suits my game. It’s treated me well over the years so I have good feelings about the whole place.”
In contrast Daly was making his first visit to Loch Lomond but adapted just as quickly with his second consecutive 68 and revealed that for the first time in a long time golf, and his life, were enjoyable once again.
“Through all the ups and downs of the last six years, it’s nice to go out and have fun,” said the 35 year old Californian. “Before I was trying to do too much for everybody else instead of pleasing myself but now it’s basically just going out and having a good time, relaxing, and letting things happen.
“The biggest thing this year is that if I’ve made a double bogey, I’ve come back with a birdie or two instead of another bogey or something. That’s pretty much what’s happened this week too.”
In total 71 players made the cut which fell at one over par, but one player not included over the weekend was last year’s European Number One Lee Westwood, who carded his second consecutive 72 to miss the cut by a shot.