Michael Campbell and Vijay Singh maintained a European Tour presence at the head of affairs in the second round of the 133rd Open Golf Championship at Royal Troon, the New Zealander and the Fijian posting a 71 and a 70 respectively to set the early clubhouse target of four under par 138 alongside unheralded American Todd Hamilton.
With the relatively windless conditions of the opening day replaced by a more traditional gusty and testing south westerly wind, scoring was always going to be harder and Campbell, out seven groups before Singh and who carded an opening 67, found that to be the case
But the gutsy New Zealander, who proved his game was bang on form with a second placed finish in the Barclays Scottish Open at Loch Lomond last Sunday, battled hard to set the target with the overnight leaders, fellow European Tour Members Paul Casey and Thomas Levet at five under par, not starting their second rounds until the afternoon.
Campbell reached the turn in one under par 35 but, like most players, found the traditionally tougher inward half at its hardest and dropped shots at the tenth and 12th after driving off the fairway into the gorse.
Another bogey looked possible on the 13th when he again missed the fairway, but a superb recovery shot to the centre of the green set up an unlikely birdie three. Six par figures completed his round but he did well to achieve that, especially on the 17th where he holed a testing ten footer for par after missing the green to the right.
“It was pretty hard out there,” said Campbell. “When I woke up this morning and saw the wind I knew that par would be a good score. On a day like today you have to try and shoot under par on the way out and prepare to be patient and face the music on the back nine.
“I have been working pretty hard on my putting technique over the past month or so and it has been paying off, especially that putt on the 17th which was a big one in my round. But to be four under par after two rounds in the Open is pretty good.”
Campbell was joined in the sanctuary of the clubhouse shortly afterwards by Singh, looking to add the Open title to an already impressive golfing CV which includes a Masters Tournament Green Jacket and a US PGA Championship crown.
The 41 year old, who carded an opening 68, reached the turn in level par 36 after birdies at the second and seventh but dropped shots at the fifth and ninth. Six par figures began the back nine before Singh found the green in two at the par five 16th and two putted for birdie. The Fijian had lengthy birdie chances at the closing two holes, but on both occasions the ball stayed above ground.
"I played really well today," said Singh. "I wasn't very happy with the way I hit the ball yesterday even though I scored well but today was much better and I wasn't really in any trouble all day.
"The more chances you get, the more comfortable you are when you get into these positions. I was in a good position last year but didn't quite do it but I am playing well just now so I am really looking forward to the weekend."
Campbell and Singh led the way by a shot from a group of players including fellow European Tour Member and winner of last month’s US Open Championship at Shinnecock Hills, Retief Goosen. The 35 year old South African was consistency personified, carding 17 pars and a solitary birdie at the seventh hole in his second round 70 for three under par 139.
In his victory at Shinnecock Hills, Goosen exhibited a masterful display around the greens in the final round to hold off the challenge of home favourite Phil Mickelson and produced something similar on the windswept Scottish links.
On several occasions, Goosen found himself out of position but managed to save par, most notably at the short 17th where he holed a superb 15 foot putt for par having missed the green, and at the last where he executed a sublime escape shot from the greenside bunker to within a foot of the cup for his par four.
“It was definitely not easy out there today,” he said. “I didn’t play all that well to be honest but I had a lot of good up and downs which kept my score going.
“The wind is difficult because it is across the golf course, but I am sure it is not going to get any easier. The weather is the one thing in this game that you cannot change so you just have to take it as it comes and get on with it.”
Alongside Goosen on 139 were the 2003 Masters Tournament Champion Mike Weir, whose second round 68 contained three birdies in a row from the fifth and American Kenny Perry, who finished tied eighth at Royal St George’s last year, and who gave himself the chance of another high finish with a second round 70 which saw him card four birdies in his last five holes.
Other European Tour Members to end their second rounds under par in the early stages were Darren Clarke, Gary Emerson and Adam Scott, who all reached halfway on one under par 141.