BRANDT Snedeker has this game taped. Aim for the middle of the green and hole everything.
Why complicate a tricky business? The rudimentary approach was perhaps understandable given his advance to the weekend was his first in four attempts at the Open.
It helps when you hole out from 45-feet, as he did at the sixth after a naff hook off the tee, and from 25-feet and in thereafter.
Once he had jump started his round, Snedeker's progress followed the trajectory of your average rocket, tearing around Lytham in 64 to lead on ten under par.
If he maintains that orbit the rest can pack their bags. This was the first time in 12 years that anybody has negotiated the opening 36 holes of a major without dropping a shot. Since Snedeker has set fire to the quiet American's script, lets see how he manages the defence of his one-shot lead in the final pairing today.
"Playing at 3:30pm yesterday was definitely under the radar. There weren't a lot of people out there when I was finishing," he said.
"Today I felt the galleries building and TV cameras getting more people inside the ropes and everything. That's great. I enjoy that. If you want to be the best player in the world or be one of the best players in the world, you're going to have to deal with that and get used to it."
Adam Scott was that man yesterday. Scott played nicely but with nothing like the birdie-eating rapaciousness of his opening round. Out in level par, Scott made his move at the tenth and added a second birdie at the 11th. Thereafter it was level-pegging all the way to the last, which he birdied for a round of 67.
Scott did not quite have the afternoon to himself. Tiger Woods strode into view five groups later.
The stroke average when Woods went to the first tee was 72.757. Forget the pyrotechnics of Snedeker, whose putter was giving off sparks, Woods was looking at a day of full-on attrition. A bucket full of rain overnight had spoiled the surroundings but not the course, which in the still conditions ought to have offered the same easy pickings as come-and-get-me Thursday. But, Snedeker apart, it didn't.
Nicolas Colsaerts went from five under back to par in seven holes. Rory McIlroy spread his misery evenly, giving back two shots over the front nine and three on the back. Anything slightly off line was punished. And anything in a bunker was fatal. McIlroy was in five, dropping at least one shot at each visit and two at the ninth, where he left his first attempt in the sand. And this contribution from a player said by Snedeker to have more talent in his fingernail than he had in his whole body. Funny old game.
McIlroy spent the afternoon on the range with his coach Michael Bannon, now a full time employee, searching for the elixir of eternal touch when a bit of luck is all he needs to fire his game.
Golfers are condemned to seek what cannot be found. Perfection is for Plato's forms not this realm. Yet on they go pounding balls regardless.Woods almost hit the flag at the par-3 opening hole. The ball came to rest ten feet from the pin. The putt slid by. Woods held his stroke, grimaced slightly, parcelled his disappointment and moved on.
The next opportunity came at the fourth and from a similar distance. No mistake this time. Woods was in the red numbers for his round, if six off Snedeker's improbable lead.
The mind drifted back to the US Open when a circumspect Woods steered his way around the Olympic Club without taking in water when others in the world's top ten disappeared. He led at half way playing with the iron control of old, much as he did yesterday. The wayward stuff was under lock and key.
This tournament has not been a bogey-free experience for any other than you know who. And as Snedeker said, no-one was more shocked about that detail than he.
Woods went 10 holes before finding trouble. Twice in the rough, he failed to make the green in regulation on the par-five 11th and paid with a six. A crowd of 43,900 swelled the galleries. The majority, it is safe to assume, were hoping to ride a Woods carousel into Friday night.
With two to play he was stable on five under par, in solo possession of third and one clear of Paul Lawrie and Matt Kuchar.
Lee Westwood was hovering around the cut mark at three over coming up the last. His account of his opening 73, a round of blocked shots and bad swings, was a surprise to coach Pete Cowen, who thought his stellar pupil was hitting the ball beautifully in practice. It is as if Westwood cannot accept the idea of hitting a poor shot without there being something technically adrift. There is no better medicine for failing than a low score.
Westwood did not suggest that yesterday but he did at least eradicate the mistakes, reaching the turn without dropping a shot and recovering the bogey at 13 with a birdie at the next.
Bubba Watson would have taken Westwood's outward nine. The Masters champion was steady for four holes then shipped five shots over the next three, including a triple-bogey eight at the seventh after playing three off the tee. Thus Watson demonstrated his versatility, going backwards just as quickly as forwards with his eye in, as it was at 14 and 15, which he birdied.
The sun is forecast to appear today and the wind to blow for the first time this week, and hardest in the afternoon.
That will be received like a shot of anaesthetic by a field beaten raw by the putters of Snedeker and Scott. But too late to spare Darren Clarke, whose reign as Open champion ended with a bogey for a round of 71 and a seven-over-par total.
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