The Open’s renowned unpredictability with its vagaries of weather was sharply highlighted on Friday when Tom Watson, 59, tied for the lead and world No. 1 Tiger Woods missed the cut.
Watson, who plays mainly on the senior Champions Tour, stayed on track for a record-equaling sixth Open victory, while fellow American Woods missed the cut in a major for only the second time as a professional.
Although those were the most astonishing examples of the perceived form book being overturned, plenty of others were delivered as tricky winds and intermittent rain swept across Turnberry’s spectacular Ailsa Course.
Britain’s Ian Poulter, runner-up at last year’s Open and listed by British bookmakers William Hill as one of the favorites at the start of the week at 28-1, missed the cut by a staggering 10 strokes after carding a nine-over 79.
Australian world No. 7 Geoff Ogilvy, US Open champion Lucas Glover, in-form American Hunter Mahan and compatriot Ben Curtis, the 2003 winner, also failed to advance.
At the other end of the logic book, little-known American Steve Marino added a 68 to his opening 67 to join Watson in a share of the lead at five-under 135.
Long-hitting Marino, making his first Open appearance, had never played links-course golf until this week.
Asked what to make of all this, Watson told reporters: “Well, I never played links golf before I played Carnoustie in 1975 and it turned out pretty good for me there.”
The tousle-haired American lifted the Claret Jug for the first time in 1975 with a playoff victory over Australian Jack Newton.
“You know, if you can find the way to put the ball in play off the tee, that’s the first thing you do in links golf,” Watson said. “How do you put the ball in play? You can try to lay up short of all the bunkers and if you’re not on the rest of your game, you’re going to struggle. You’re going to have to take some risks and put the ball into certain places where you’re going to have to take a few challenges on the golf course.”
Former winner Mark Calcavecchia of the US, one stroke off the lead at the tournament’s midway point, played down the importance of links-course familiarity, although half in jest.
“I think experience is way overrated,” said the 49-year-old, the champion at Royal Troon in 1989. “All that means is I’ve hit more bad shots than all the guys that are 20 years old and they’re lingering in my brain.”
Marino, a late addition to the field whose knowledge of links layouts before the event was limited to his two practice rounds, could see both sides of the argument.
“Obviously it’s an advantage to have experience, but it can also be an advantage to not have experience,” Marino said. “I haven’t really experienced any nightmares over here yet, knock on wood, but watching it on TV my whole life, I’ve seen some crazy things go on. I’ve got it in my head that some crazy things might happen to me, both good and bad.”