Open Championship Clippings, Saturday Edition

openlogo.jpgThere's a story book feel about this one, so why not go to the tabloids for our top game story? Dave Armitage of the Daily Star sums up the wild possibilities unfolding at Birkdale and like any good rag reporter, focuses on the Norman-Evert pairing.

And speaking of tabloid fodder, check out's photo gallery. Image one is Chrissy greeting Greg at 18 and you can get a nice look at the rock on her left hand. It looks heavier than the Claret Jug.

Lawrence Donegan noted that after the round, Norman sounded "like a love-struck teenager" and can you blame him after hearing this comment to television:

“It’s hard to find her (in the crowd), everybody either wears black raingear or navy raingear.  She’s a competitor, she really feels every shot, she plays every shot with me and she walks every shot.  I think she’s blended in well.  I think she’s accepted that this is different grass, it’s not Wimbledon grass underneath (her feet), it’s British Open grass and it’s an adjustment for her and she’s handled it very, very well.”

53125_1.jpgNeil Squires talks to Norman caddy and grizzled vet of looping lore Linn Strickler.

Strickler, having seen all of Norman’s 140 shots so far, including the delicious curving putt from off the green at the last which secured another level-par 70 and brought the house down, had only one explanation.

“I caddied for him a couple of times in the Eighties and nothing seems to have changed. He has still got it. This is HG Wells,” said Strickler.

Steve Elling on Norman:

Which might, or might not, include being on parade before the world golf press for the first time in a while. Norman brought down the house when he was jokingly asked whether he was trying to make up ground on Evert, who collected 16 more major championships in women's tennis than he has in golf.

Friday felt like old times in so many ways, Norman had to laugh. He was even asked if, given his admittedly low expectations entering the tournament, if he had made "alternate plans" for the weekend, since few in the media fancied his chances of surviving the cut.

"Boy, I missed you guys," he cracked.

Bob Harig cuts through all the Greg and Chrissy talk and asks the tough questions.

Can he really pull this off?

Conventional wisdom and a dose of common sense suggest the task is impossible. Debating England's aversion to ice might make for a better discussion than the ridiculous notion of Norman's contending again.

The man has more scar tissue in major championships than any player, dead or alive, with playoff losses in each of the four Grand Slam events being just the beginning. But here he is, after a second straight 70 at Royal Birkdale, a shot out of the lead at the Open Championship through 36 holes.

At age 53.

Nine years removed from the last time he threatened at a major championship.

Eleven years after his last PGA Tour victory.

I'd say that's a big no.

Tim Rosaforte writes of Greg and Camillo's bond, one of Greg's many mentoring relationships with young players.

36-hole leader K.J. Choi is going to be patient, reports Mark-Lamport Stokes. Meanwhile, punters beware, John Hopkins says put your money on Choi. And speaking of patient and flying under the radar, David Dusek profiles Jim Furyk quietly lurking at +2 despite 66 putts over the first two rounds.

Golfweek's Jeff Babineau looks at Rocco:

He is enjoying the sudden rocket boost in his career thanks to the timely work of two people: Instructor Jimmy Ballard, a master of bad backs and the golf swing, and physio Cindi Hilfman, who is a master of the body and has been pivotal in helping him with his ailing back. Any time Mediate feels healthy and gets to a place where par carries great value, like at Birkdale, where winds have gusted past 25 mph the last two days and could reach gale-force levels on Saturday, he likes his chances. Certainly his mind is in a good, comfortable place.

Even if looking back at Torrey Pines leaves him a tad dizzy.

“I still don’t even know what the hell happened,” he said. “I haven’t sat down and thought about it yet. I can’t believe that that was me who was the other guy. I really can’t believe it. Hard to believe. It was the coolest moment. I’d like to have another one of those soon.”

Jaime Diaz offers an interesting analysis of Phil Mickelson's struggle to put together four great rounds on a links but doesn't seem to rule him out as a possible contender this weekend, particularly if he gets a break with the weather Saturday.

James Corrigan looks at Camillo Villegas and his inability to return to his homeland.

Villegas was understandably guarded when, in the wake of the 65 that hauled him high up the leaderboard, he was asked about his homeland's troubles. "I love my country," he repeated several times, before saying: "I miss my home." The truth is, Villegas has not been back to Medellin, a city renowned for the activities of a certain Pablo Escobar, anywhere near as often as he would like. And one of the reasons for his absence seems a million miles from this genteel setting on England's north-west coast.

The better the 26-year-old becomes known, the greater the danger of his being kidnapped. It is a simple equation that most prominent Latin American sportsmen must come to recognise. So Villegas, a flamboyant figure who has put golf on the front pages in Colombia, has had to cancel trips home. "Because things have changed a lot," he said earlier this year. "There has been a lot of commotion and reaction. Newspapers and the internet make it available for people to see how much money I make. It's not the most secure place. I'm just hoping people value what I do and that I'm trying to do the best for my country."

John Huggan on amateur Chris Wood's amazing finish on 18.

Mike O'Malley encapsulates day 2 player "observations."

Steve Elling on David Duval, the first man to ever have a child.

Could be because his world ranking has fallen to No. 1,087. For those looking for a little perspective on that figure, it's never a good sign when there's a comma in your ranking.

For the past five years, Duval has been piecing his game back together as his family life has taken shape. He's now married with five kids, including two young children of his own. He's flattered, but slightly confused, that everybody keeps asking about the latter. But for a guy who always seemed a bit of a lonely figure, it's nice to hear that he has found roots and stability.

"The difficulty now lies in actually leaving and going and playing. You know, I've become a very good country club golfer, and I enjoy carts and 2½-hour rounds and going back home."

Bill Fields declares winners and losers from Friday

Michael Bamberger on Tom Watson grinding to make the cut (he didn't):

Watson would never say this, but the pace of his playing partners, Justin Rose and Aaron Baddeley, nice and respectful men though they are, had to be tormenting to him. Badds spends more time over the line of his missed putts than Watson would need to read and make three putts. He did say he thought they play better when they play faster.

Doug Ferguson's notes include a John Daly wrap-up, Jack Nicklaus supporting the Olympic movement and the tragic passing of Fran Pruitt, wife of Dillard Pruitt and sister in law of Scott Verplank.

sgnick119.jpgMartin Johnson on Jack's brief RBS related appearance at Birkdale.

He hardly plays now, as social golf was never likely to be high on his agenda, and clearing the hips on the downswing is a little trickier when one is artificial. Hard though it is to believe, though, he remains - at 68 - the only serious rival to Tiger Woods.

Nicklaus was forever involved in duels, firstly with Arnold Palmer, then Gary Player, then Lee Trevino, and, perhaps most of all, with Tom Watson. Woods, though, is duelling with no one but himself, and without any serious contenders for his No 1 ranking, his sole motivation remains Nicklaus' record of 18 major championships.

"I suppose you could say that Tiger's main rivalry is me and my record," he said. "That's his motivation, and he's so strong he doesn't really need anything else. But it would be so good for the game if he had one or two guys coming along to really push him."

So is Nicklaus at all happy that Woods, who has 14 majors, will make no further inroads towards Jack's tally this year? Apparently not. "I would never be pleased to see Tiger not go after my record because of health issues. I even gave him the name of a real top hip specialist who worked with me many years ago, because his knee problems are related to his right hip, though whether he ever called him up I don't know."

Nicklaus' main business now is course design, and he raised an eyebrow not only when I told him that John Daly was constructing one in Missouri - "Daly's designing a golf course?" - but that it would be well over 8,000 yards in length. The great man could barely suppress a snort.

"Heck, Birkdale has had eight previous Opens, but for this one they've had to change 16 of the holes simply because technology was making it obsolete. Specifically the golf ball. Between 1935 and 1995 the ball advanced maybe 15 yards. Since then you can add on another 50 to 60 yards.

''This is why I'm sad when I see what's happened at St Andrews. How can you take one of the world's great courses, change it by building half a dozen new tees, and call it an improvement?"

Jack's not sucking up to the R&A!

Finally, Mike Aitken profiles Peter Alliss and wisely let's him talk...

"It's different now," he replied. "Of course, it's very easy to say things are either so much better now or worse. I try and equate it with other things – motor racing or film making or athletics. Jesse Owens was once the fastest thing on two legs and now your granny could run as fast. Perhaps we shouldn't try and compare, because everything is so different – the equipment, the courses and so on. It's only in fairly recent times they've put rakes in the bunkers. Once, you scraped the sand over with your foot.

"The conditioning of the links has added something to the championship, but also taken something away. The players today require everything to be nearly perfect. If they land a ball in the bunker and it's plugged, they want to know why. Whereas Peter (Thomson], who could be very whimsical, would say, 'They're called hazards, and you're supposed to stay out of them. If you go in one, it's supposed to cost you, unless you play a very good recovery shot."

Allis didn't replace Henry Longhurst as the BBC's main golf commentator until 1978. But he was behind the microphone on a part-time basis when Palmer won in 1961. He also played that summer and racked up another ninth place finish.

"Birkdale is one of my favourites (on the rota]," he said. "It's flat and not that hard work for the players or caddies. It's also a reasonable walk for the spectators and a good viewing course. Because of its position in the country, it's an easy place to get to and the crowds are big. If they come on the railway, people don't even need a car.

"There is an underground water system which has ensured that seven or eight holes, no matter how dry the summer, the fairways are green. Birkdale has never really been a hard, bouncy, fiery course, like Hoylake. That was a good exercise (to go back] there, though I'm not sure we saw it at its best. It would have been nice to have a little bit of green. But then you marvel at the way Tiger Woods appraised the situation. There's no rule which says you have to use driver off the tee.