American Bruce Vaughan will enter unchartered territory after his level par 71 gave him the lead at the halfway mark of The Senior Open Championship presented by MasterCard – the first time he has topped a leaderboard going into the weekend.
The joint overnight leader is a shot clear of compatriot John Cook and two ahead of Bernhard Langer, Eduardo Romero and defending champion Tom Watson at Royal Troon Golf Club.
Vaughan, whose best career finish was second at the Dick’s Sporting Goods Open in 2007, carded a bogey on the third hole but immediately recovered with a birdie on the fourth, before repeating the bogey-birdie sequence on the 15th and 16th holes.
The 51 year old needed ice treatment on his left knee – which he has had six operations on in the past two years – after feeling pain on the fourth tee, rekindling memories of Tiger Woods’ incredible injury hampered rounds at The US Open Championship.
Of course Padraig Harrington also overcame injury to win The Open Championship at Royal Birkdale last week and it was a case of “beware the injured golfer” once more as Vaughan played himself into contention to also win a Major Championship.
As well as his knee problems, Vaughan will have to contend with the new experience of leading a tournament at this stage for the first time, after finishing his second round with a three under par total.
Vaughan said: “I played okay not as good as yesterday, obviously, but I hit some decent shots. My knee was hurting a little bit out there to be honest. I had a work out this morning but I felt I stepped a little bit funny on the fourth tee and it was hurting after that.
“I have had six operations in the past two years and have had a partial knee put in three times. I did have two pieces of metal in there but now I only have the one with a lot of polyurethane sort of stuff.”
Vaughan said it was too early to think about the prospect of the biggest pay day of his career but insisted he was not surprised to find himself in contention.
“You look at my scores in the last half of the year and I have been playing pretty good. A lot of it has been the putting which has let me down.
“I have had some good finishes but I have had some problems with my knee so I haven’t really been playing that well until last year and so it is just good to be out here and competing with guys like who are in the field here.”
Cook also carded two birdies and two bogeys en route to his level par 71 to stay on two under par for the Championship.
He said: “Any time you're under par at a Major championship, you have to be pleased, and today was no exception. I played very well. I hit a lot of very, very solid shots.
“I've been paired with Bruce I think once in America and I've known him for years, not very well, but I've known Bruce. He's had to play as hard as he could everywhere. Nothing was really ever given to him, and he's battling, and it's great to see. He's a good story.”
If Vaughan can keep up his momentum it certainly could create more than one good story, as he could be paired with fellow Kansas player Tom Watson over the weekend after the three-time champion stayed at one under par with a level par 71.
Watson said: “He's a good player, Bruce, he's a very good player. I like his action. He's very solid, very, very solid. I'm not saying that lightly; I'm just saying that factually.
“I'm still right in the tournament. I had a very good break at the 11th to keep me in it when I hit the ball in the bush and took an unplayable.”
Argentine Romero, who had shared the lead with Vaughan overnight, had slipped back in the early windy conditions and carded a two over par round of 73 while former Ryder Cup Captain Langer finished with a level par 71.
“It was really difficult,” said Langer. “The wind was blowing and, hence, I was hitting three to four clubs more than the yardage. It was pretty tough going out, because everything was into the wind off the left.
“And then coming home, the holes play a lot shorter, but the problem is then you could't stop it. The course is quite firming up now with very little rain lately. And when the pin positions are at the front like 17 and 16 and a few others it's very hard to stop the ball and get it close to the hole.
“Generally I hit a couple of wayward shots today, two or three that cost me but otherwise the short game was pretty good.”
Greg Norman’s Open Championship hangover continued as he struggled again early on but The Great White Shark finished with an eagle on the 16th and a birdie on the last for a one over par round of 72 to play himself back into the Championship on five over par – eight shots off the lead.
European Seniors Tour Order of Merit leader Ian Woosnam finished with a two over par round of 73 to move to six over par for the Championship but both Sandy Lyle and Sam Torrance missed the cut after both Scots finished on 12 over par.
Attendance up again
The Senior Open Championship presented by MasterCard once again proved a huge attraction for the golfing public who streamed through the gates at Royal Troon for the second day’s play. Following Thursday’s record attendance of 8,760, a new record figure of 9,435 was set in the glorious sunshine of Friday, bringing the total attendance for the week so far to 18,195.