European Tour Members Trevor Immelman and Vijay Singh threw down the gauntlet to World Number One and overnight leader Tiger Woods when they moved alongside the American in the second round of The Open Championship at St Andrews
With Woods preparing to begin his second round, after his fine opening 66, both Immelman and Singh moved to six under par 138 the tournament after carding respective rounds of 70 and 69 around the Old Course.
Immelman further emphasised his credentials as one of the most exciting young talents in the game with a tidy effort. A birdie three at the ninth saw Immelman out in level par 36 before he made his move on the inward half of the Old Course, birdies at the 12th, 14th and 18th making amends for his solitary dropped shot of the inward half, which came at the 13th.
“I'm delighted with the way I played and to hole that putt at the last for birdie was a great feeling," he said. "Patience is very important out there and you have to make sure you keep your thoughts together and try not to get too far ahead of yourself. I think I have managed to do that pretty well."
Singh carded his second consecutive 69 but whereas in Thursday’s opening round he had two bogeys, in the second round he was consistency personified, no dropped shots at all, his only departures for par coming with birdies at the first, ninth and 14th.
The 42 year old Fijian had a chance to take the lead outright but, with Woods looking on from the adjacent first tee, he let his birdie chance from ten feet on the 18th green slip by the left edge of the hole.
"It was disappointing not to birdie the last but I'm happy with my position in the tournament," he said. "I'm playing well, I'm striking the ball well and I'm putting well, the ball is just not dropping. But I am very much in the tournament and looking forward to the weekend."
One shot behind the duo was Spain’s Sergio Garcia who birdied the final hole for a second round 69 and a five under par total of 139. Indeed Garcia had a chance for eagle two at the last after driving the green but saw his putt from 18 feet slip narrowly past the left edge of the hole.
“Hopefully if I can be about four or five shots behind going into the weekend then I will have a good chance because I am playing well,” he said. “I felt like 70-69 was the highest scores I could have shot. I was putting well but the ball was just not dropping – hopefully I can put that right on Saturday and Sunday.”
Another high profile European Tour Member was Australian Richard Green – winner of the Dubai Desert Classic in 1997 – who took advantage of the relatively benign early morning conditions on the Old Course to post a fine 68 for a four under par total of 140.
The left hander carded birdies at the fifth, ninth, 12th and 14th before succumbing to a bogey five on the treacherous Road Hole 17th after a poor drive. But he recovered admirably, holing a 15 footer for a closing birdie three on the 18th.
“It was a little cold early on when I started and I was pleased to get through the first four holes in level par,” he said. “Then I made the birdie on the fifth which got me going and started my momentum for the rest of the round.
“I holed from about ten feet on the 12th and 14th and I felt confident from that length all day. I had struggled a little bit with that length of putt for the past two to three weeks but I have seemed to find the pace of the greens here to my liking.
“I was pleased to make bogey five in the end at the 17th after a really poor drive – it could have been a lot worse – but it was nice to finish the way I did at the last and that has set me up for the weekend.”
One shot behind Green was Ernie Els – winner of The European Tour Order of Merit in both 2003 and 2004 – who carded an excellent 67 to make up for his opening 74 for a three under par total of 141.
The South African carded eight birdies in total including from 15 feet at the last. “The putt on the 18th was big,” said Els. “It was just outside the left edge and I hit it exactly there and it dropped in. It was particularly good because I missed a similar one on the 17th.
“The pins are perhaps a little bit more accessible today than they were yesterday but I have to be happy with that effort. It is frustrating when you are playing well but can’t get a score on the board and that is what I happened yesterday. But I felt good with my putting today, the ball is coming off the blade nicely, and hopefully I can keep that going.”
Further down the leaderboard, the best finish of the day was posted by England’s Ian Poulter who birdied all four of the closing holes for a level par 72 and a two under par total of 142.