HOYLAKE, ENGLAND | In the morning, a Just Stop Oil protester was sent packing from the Open Championship at Royal Liverpool with the help of Billy Horschel. Looking ahead to the third round, we could be seeing the Animal Rights people out and about after what Brian Harman had to say in the wake of his second-round 65 that left him at 10-under 142, five strokes clear of the field.
Following on from what had been a disappointing performance at the Masters, Harman had advised the US media he had “gone home and killed a pig and a turkey.”
When a member of the press revisited the topic yesterday, Harman added to the subject matter by explaining he did a lot of hunting. “I’ve been a hunter all my life,” said Harman, who was born and raised in Savannah, Georgia. “I enjoy the strategy of it. I enjoy butchering.”
Good news though it is that Harman is known to adhere to the highest possible standards in that line of activity, you doubt there were too many people in the UK who were saying, “Oh well, that makes it OK then.”
Of course, none of the above should have taken away from what was a truly splendid round, given the conditions. Though player complaints on Thursday had led to an R&A statement about how the bunkers had been raked in such a way as to stop balls from rolling up against their steep faces, the wind stepped up to keep the players in their place. The pièce de résistance in Harman’s round was the way he dipped from 8 under to 10 under at the halfway stage courtesy of an eagle at the 18th.
Everyone, it seemed, was interested in how South African amateur Christo Lamprecht would react to having spent Thursday night in a share of the lead with Tommy Fleetwood.
What with the size of the crowds, spectators could well have been envious of Lamprecht’s 6-foot-8-inch height. The same, however, would not have applied to the players. Indeed, you had to think it was an afternoon when Louis Oosthuizen and Joost Luiten never would have been happier to be no more than about 5-9 apiece.
Lamprecht showed how he won the recent Amateur Championship when, after he had blasted balls to all corners of the earth, his short game did its best to keep his score in check.
His bogey at the 367-yard fourth defied belief when, in going for the green, he ended up with an unplayable lie on the far side of some faraway gorse bushes. The chances are that this was something of a first for the residents on the ground floor of the adjacent flats. You doubt whether any golfer had appeared in their neck of the woods before.
What with a 79, this fascinating character plummeted from 5 under to 3 over, on the cut line.
Fleetwood, meanwhile, could not have made a better fist of his second round on a day when he had his struggles. He started at 5 under and, thanks to his adoring fans, that is how he finished.
They encouraged him every step of the way, with their cheers leading him and everyone else to start thinking of pars as birdies. True, he is five behind Harman, but always assuming his fans don’t have any alternative plans for the weekend, it is not too difficult to see the Fleetwood gang putting things to rights. Fleetwood, meanwhile, signed off from his day with the words, “If you had said to me at the start of the week that I’d have been in the top game on Saturday, I’d have taken it.”
Of course, Fleetwood is not the only local lad. Matthew Jordan, a member of the Royal Liverpool Golf Club and one who used to captain the junior team, is also under par – 1 under – and tied for 11th place at the half-way stage.
There are plenty of players still in the mix, with Jordan Spieth, tied for seventh on 2 under a case in point. Spieth, the 2017 Open champion, was 5 under for the week after turning in 32 before going awry with an inward 39.
It was one of the volunteers whose task it was to collect the balls from the chipping green who declared that this American was ahead of the rest with his chipping from 30 yards in – and that he wouldn’t bet against the three-time major champion winning one more of golf’s biggest titles: “Almost all of his chips were finishing within a couple of feet of the hole. It was sensational.”
The golf apart, spectators were having a field day at what one chap described to his mate as “the biggest pub in the world.” He was referring to the area close to the 18th tee, which was given over to heaven knows how many thousands of revellers enjoying a few drinks.
You wonder what the members must think of how the course they have been preserving their course since last October changes so much in a modern Open week.
They did not begin to worry about the professionals’ divots, which were littering the area in front of the third tee, but there were those who conceded that they were not overly happy about the Celebrities’ Texas Scramble, which took place last Sunday. Not all of them knew about it, and that included the gentleman who said to GGP, “It was a funny thing to happen, don’t you think?”
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