‘The Great White Shark’ bit back at Royal Aberdeen Golf Club on Friday, setting the lowest round of the Championship to move within two strokes of the lead held by former Masters Champion Craig Stadler.
Gusting winds and tight fairways on the par-71 Balgownie Links had tamed Greg Norman on the opening day of The Senior British Open Championship, presented by Aberdeen Asset Management.
The Australian, who was making his debut on the Seniors circuit, slipped to a five over par 76 but like any proud predator, ‘The Shark’ bared his teeth and took a chunk of his score back with a four under 67 in the second round.
But the two-times Open Champion still lays two shots back from Stadler, who carded the second best round of the day, a 68, to lead the Championship on a one under total of 141.
The American was pleased with his day’s work in blustery conditions which did not quite match the 30mph gusts of Thursday, when he shot a 73. “Today was very satisfying. I hung in there, I took advantage of my opportunities to make birdies. Four birdies and a bogey around here are pretty good,” he said.
“I still will not say that I hit the ball perfectly, because I didn’t. Far from it. But I just kept it in play and was patient and pretty much got as much as I could out of it.
“It’s very easy to walk off the 18th green and look at your card and think, well, there’s four or five I saved. And that’s the way to play around here when the wind blows.”
That last comment referred to up-and-down saves at the par four tenth and 18th, plus the short 17th. “I’m still playing the par threes horribly. I think I’ve hit two greens out of eight so far,” added Stadler, whose triumph at the 1982 Masters Tournament was the pick of his 13 titles on the USA PGA Tour.
Norman, who was out later in the day, birdied three of the last four holes including a brilliant one down the last. Having driven way right, the Australian muscled a nine iron from heavy rough and landed it within 30 foot of the pin and holed out.
“I got to know the lines on the golf course,” said Norman, who has only recently returned from major back surgery.
“You know where you’re hitting the ball, you know where the trouble is. So I’m starting to feel a little bit more comfortable with it and hopefully I can keep it going the next couple of days.
“I knew today I could shoot myself out of the tournament and I didn’t want to do that. I wanted to play consistent, steady golf. I’ve been doing that now for six rounds of golf going back to The Open, and in truth I’m looking forward to continuing it on.”
Another Major Champion, American Tom Watson, moved up to tied fourth on the leaderboard after a level par round of 71 that featured four birdies, while alone in third is Ireland’s Des Smyth.
Smyth reversed his round from Thursday, when he struggled on the front nine, to reach the turn in 34 after a stunning eagle three on the 554 yard second hole.
“I hit drive, five wood and I had a mid-wedge 75 yards into the wind and one bounce and straight in. That was exciting,” said the 52 year old from Drogheda, who dropped three shots coming home to finish with a one over par 72 and a two-round total of 145.
A stroke further back are Watson, Argentina’s Eduardo Romero, overnight leader Loren Roberts of the USA and Italian Giuseppe Cali. Scotland’s leading player is John Chillas, who birdied the last to finish with a 74 and a share of 13th place with England’s Mark James, American Alan Tapie and South African Bobby Lincoln, who are all on 149.
Leading scores after round two of The Senior British Open Championship at Royal Aberdeen Golf Club, par 71
141 C Stadler (USA) 68
143 G Norman (Aus) 67
145 D Smyth (Ire) 72
146 T Watson (USA) 71; E Romero (Arg) 71; G Cali (It) 73; L Roberts (USA) 74
147 F Conner USA) 74; S Ebihara (Jap) 70
148 N Jarvis (Can) 71; H Carbonetti (Arg) 73; M McNulty (Ire) 72