Ireland’s Des Smyth and Tom Watson of the USA, the two protagonists in last Sunday’s play-off for the Senior British Open Championship at Royal Aberdeen, were back in the hunt for another Major title in the US Senior Open at NCR Country’s South Course In Kettering, Ohio.
Smyth, who ultimately lost in sudden-death to the American in Scotland, successfully put his disappointment behind him with a superb second round 66 to share fifth place with Raymond Floyd on 136, six under par, at the halfway stage.
They are three strokes behind Watson, who fired a 65, Loren Roberts (67) and Craig Stadler (69) on 133, nine under par with Wayne Levi, also of the United States, on seven under par after a round of 67.
Smyth reeled off six birdies in his round, while his only error came at the 16th where his bogey was sandwiched in between birdies at the 15th and 17th. That allowed the Irishman to finish level with Floyd, who coincidentally won the 1969 US PGA Championship at the same venue.
The 133 totals of Roberts, Stadler and Watson tied the US Senior Open record for the low 36 hole score, set previously by Dave Stockton (1992), Simon Hobday (1994) and Bruce Fleisher (2000). Sixty four players, including four amateurs, made the cut on 145, three over par.
Zimbabwe-born Mark McNulty of Ireland fired a 67 for a share of seventh place on 137.
One prominent name who won't be playing on the weekend is 75 year old legend Arnold Palmer. In his 25th Senior Open. Palmer shot a 24 over par 166. He doffed his cap after taking two putts to finish, bowed three times toward the crowd and walked away from competitive golf.
"As far as trying to compete in major championship such as the Open and other tournaments," said Palmer, "this is it. I'm through doing that. I won't be doing that anymore."
Entering the day four shots off the lead, Watson had four shots that each stopped a foot from the hole for easy tap-in birdies in a six under round. It was the reason why he had 25 putts on otherwise receptive greens. Watson is attempting to win back-to-back majors, coming off last week's Senior British Open victory.
The US Senior Open marks his fourth major in four weeks. "It's somewhat fatiguing in the sense that I got a little careless today," said Watson. "Mentally I got a bit careless."