Mark Calcavecchia’s bid to become only the fourth player to claim an Open Championship-Senior Open Championship double continued in the second round at Walton Heath Golf Club, where he shares the lead with his compatriot Lee Rinker and Canadian Rod Spittle on seven under par.
Calcavecchia was tied for the lead with Australian Mike Harwood overnight, and he was quickly out of the blocks on Friday morning with two birdies in his opening two holes.
The 1989 Open Champion reached the turn in 34, before birdies at the 12th and 18th holes shot him to the top of the leaderboard at the US$2million event, leaving him in pole position to join Bob Charles, Gary Player and Tom Watson in the exclusive club of Open Champions who have gone on to win the equivalent on the Senior Tour.
Calcavecchia sees no reason why he cannot push on and secure his first Senior Open Championship title.
“I don’t see why not, but there’s a long way to go. Like I said, I kind of held it together. I got a little sloppy on the back nine, but I’ll try to be more aware of it tomorrow,” said the American.
“My last four drives were great, after three crooked ones on 11, 12 and 13. I’m looking forward to the weekend now.”
Calcavecchia was soon joined on seven under par by his close friend Rinker, who shot a stunning round of 67.
The pair have been friends since playing junior golf together in their native Florida, but since then, Rinker has not enjoyed quite the same success as Major Champion Calcavecchia.
He said: “It’s just a total dream to be in this position. You dream of it your whole life, having a chance to win a tournament like this. So it’s going to be a lot of fun the last few days.”
Spittle made it a three-way tie at the top after matching Rinker’s round of 67 courtesy of seven birdies.
He said: “It’s very exciting. The challenge now is to slow down and breathe, try not to fall down, and continue to do the things I’ve done these last couple of days. I’ve driven it really well, and kept it out of the long stuff. If you can drive it on the fairways, you have a chance to score. So that will be my game plan for the next two days.”
Australian Peter Fowler is currently in fourth place after carding a superb round of 68 to climb to five under par.
Fowler, a winner of two titles on the Senior Tour this season, notched five birdies and a solitary bogey to continue the form which has seen him climb to second place on the Order of Merit.
He said: “My body’s feeling much better than it has for a while, and I think that’s showing in my results. I had a few surgeries a couple of years ago on my back, so I did a lot of rehab, and I’m still doing it. The body feels good, and I think it’s helping my golf swing, because I’ve got to pay special attention to make sure that my body doesn't move around too much.
“I played pretty well today. I started to loosen up a little more today than yesterday. I knew that if I drove the ball well, I wouldn’t get into too much trouble. And that’s what happened, so I was pretty happy.”
England’s Barry Lane is also well placed on three under par after a solid round of 70, whilst his compatriot Kevin Spurgeon shot the lowest round of the day, a 66 which moved him up to one under par.
Spurgeon said: “I enjoyed it, after yesterday. I played quite well on the back nine yesterday to keep me from falling off the edge of the cliff, because I was struggling a bit. But I played much better today. This morning on the range, I couldn’t hit it. Honestly, I wasn’t striking it well at all. I was getting so cheesed off. But then I made birdie on the first and the second, and the swing was there again. It just came back.”
Watson, meanwhile, shot a superb round of 68 to rectify some of the damage done by his disappointing opening effort of 75.
He still believes he is in with a chance of victory on one under par, having hit 17 greens in regulation on Friday.
“I kept the ball in play and drove the ball beautifully. I wasn’t in any of the heather and any of the bunkers, so that’s your main aim here at Walton Heath,” said Watson.
“This heathland golf course is very exacting off the tee – if you make a few mistakes here, you’ll make some bogeys or worse.
“The putter is going to have to work this weekend for me to have a chance to win. I’m one under par for the tournament, so it looks like I’m going to have to make up some ground and the only way to do it is with your putter.”