Norman heroics outshine Choi's lead
BY Bruce Young | European PGA Tour | 2008 British Open | Round Two | 19 Jul 2008
In scenes from a bygone era, Greg Norman has upstaged rivals up to 30 years his junior with a stunning performance at the Open Championship and after 36 holes trails only Korean K.J. Choi by one stroke as the event heads into the weekend.
Choi deserves his place at the top of the field having played so impressively in what was the more difficult side of the draw but Norman has provided a spark for the tournament in the absence of Tiger Woods and turned back the clock to an era when he was regularly in contention in the majors. How ironic it would be that after often copping flack for not winning enough major championships, he was able to go on and win one in his 50’s. That goal is a long way off yet but he has at least created an opportunity to do so.
Norman played early on day two and opened with a lengthy birdie putt at the first and had a share of the lead. A double bogey at the 6th threatened to derail him but he was quickly back with birdies at the 7th and 8th.
Many rock solid pars would follow before a great up and down par at the 16th and then a significant bogey save at the 17th after making a mess of the reachable par five. He holed a 15 foot putt there for bogey to retain the outright lead.
Amid a reception typically reserved for Sundays at this event, Norman strode towards the 18th green to great applause and provided even more reason for such acknowledgement when he holed a 20 foot comeback par putt after his initial putt from the front of the green ran to the back edge.
It had every golf journalist at the Open licking their lips at the prospect of a storyline that would, to a large extent, write itself.
Norman has played on only a limited basis this season although when he has he has not disgraced himself. He finished 7th at the South African Open late last year and then made the cut with a 14th at a co-sanctioned European Tour event in China.
He threatened to win the US Senior PGA Championship recently but given his recent off course distractions including his divorce and then marriage to Chris Evert, he has displayed an amazing capacity to switch on and off like all great players do.
Choi is playing his 9th Open Championship and has a previous best of 8th last year at Carnoustie. He arrived at Birkdale following a series of indifferent performances in recent weeks but a strong finish to his afternoon round with birdies at the final two holes has given him the lead.
Alone in third place is the brilliant Colombian Camilo Villegas whose round of 65 was made even more impressive given that he opened with consecutive bogeys. Five consecutive birdies to finish his round, including a putt from just off the green at the last, highlighted not only Villegas’ significant game but just what is still achievable around Royal Birkdale.
Those at 2 over and thee behind the lead include Padraig Harrington, Robert Allenby, US Open runner up Rocco Mediate, Jim Furyk and, like Norman, another previous world number one David Duval. Duval has made one cut in twelve starts this season on the PGA Tour but the previous winner of this event has performed against the odds to be right in the firing line for the weekend.
Pre-tournament favourite Sergio Garcia is at five over and six behind but is not yet out of it by any stretch of the imagination.
The leading Australasians after Norman and Allenby are Stuart Appleby at 3 over, Adam Scott at 4 over, Craig Parry and Brendan Jones at 7 over, Richard Green at 8 over and Nick O’Hern and Michael Campbell at 9 over.
The cut fell at 9 over with 83 players in the field for the final 36 holes.