England’s Barry Lane continued his wonderful season when he moved into contention in the second round of the 133rd Open Golf Championship at Royal Troon. The 44 year old European Tour Member stormed home in 32 for a 68 and a five under par total of 137 to sit alongside Korean KJ Choi, both players two shots adrift of surprise leader Skip Kendall.
The American, who was beaten in a play-off for the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic in January but who has yet to win on the US PGA Tour, matched the best round of the week, a five under par 66 to storm to the head of affairs.
Key to success for the 39 year old from Florida was the finish he put together on the Ayrshire links, birdieing the 12th and 14th but saving the best for the par five 16th, where he chose to putt from off the green but proved it was exactly the right option when his 50 foot eagle putt dropped gently into the cup.
Lane, who won The Daily Telegraph Damovo British Masters on the parkland layout of The Marriott Forest of Arden in May for his first European Tour title in over ten years, showed he was equally capable on a links course with a superb showing.
After a rollercoaster front nine of 36 which featured three birdies and three bogeys, including sixes at both the par fives – the fourth and sixth – Lane steadied the ship in fine style and made a mockery of the widely-held belief that the inward half at Royal Troon is the tougher nine.
The Englishman began his birdie quest at the 12th before finishing in considerable style, rolling in a 15 foot birdie effort at the 17th before bettering that from 20 feet at the 18th.
“It is funny that on both days my form on the front nine has been a little bit up and down but on the back nine it has been very solid and today was a perfect example of that,” said Lane.
“To make two at the 17th was very special as it is difficult to shape your tee shot properly into the wind and then at the last I just hit two iron from the tee and nine iron to the centre of the green and rolled in the putt, it was a great way to finish.
“In the past, I don’t think I have ever played really well during the Open week but I have played a few in my career so over the weekend I just want to go out and try to enjoy it. There is a long way to go but as long as I can enjoy it, that is the main thing.”
The sterling effort saw Lane and Choi, who posted four birdies in his 69, move ahead of a group of players which included fellow European Tour Members Michael Campbell and Vijay Singh, the New Zealander and the Fijian posting a 71 and a 70 respectively for a four under par total of 138.
Campbell, 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 and reached the turn in one under par 35 but, unlike Lane, 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."
Other European Tour Members to move into contention included Retief Goosen, winner of the US Open Championship at Shinnecock Hills last month, who 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.”
Further down the leaderboard, the European Tour interest was maintained by Members to end their second rounds under par in the early stages were Darren Clarke, Gary Emerson, Gary Evans and Adam Scott, who all reached halfway on one under par 141.