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Issue Date:- 18 July 2008

2nd Day of the Championship
Report by Sally Devine & photos by Patrick Trollope

WEATHER conditions were much improved for the second day of the Open, the wind having eased and the rain holding off for those players who were out on the course early. Crowds were poured into Royal Birkdale and have surpassed yesterday's attendance of 36,500 by 44,500. Again up by 500 on 1998's figures.

Australian, Greg Norman teed off at 7:47am GMT alongside Robert Karlsson of Sweden and Woody Austin from the USA. Norman, who is now 53 years old, has a caddy, who is even older than himself. American born Linn Strickler is 58 years of age and comes from Clearwater in Florida. He previously spent 14 years caddying for Ben Crenshaw. Norman encountered problems at the 6th hole, shooting into the rough before making a six. However, he recovered from this with a birdie on the seventh and went into the clubhouse as leader on par with a round of 70. Accompanied later by his wife, former Ladies Wimbledon champion Chris Evert, he replied, when asked, that he did not expect to be in this position on the second day of the tournament.

Local boy, Nick Dougherty is still on course to survive the half way cut in the tournament but still needs to work on his game if he is to have any chance of being successful. The crowd are very much behind him, willing him on and would be delighted to see the Bootle born man finish at least in the top three come Sunday.

Last group out today to tee off at 4:21pm GMT included Englishman Gary Boyd, preceded by Jamie Howarth. 10 over could be the yardstick for those hoping to make the cut, much depended on the strength of the wind in the afternoon, holes number 6 and 16 being particularly exposed to the severe 40 to 45mph cross winds which gust across this course. However, Nick Dougherty, after a stunning round said:- "It was nice to shoot a half decent score today. I didn't play very well, particularly… It's nice to make the cut, as the last few weeks have been tough. Certainly I wouldn't want to come here and miss the cut like I did at Hoylake, when I let everyone down."

The controversial hole 17 was the scene of a very interesting event, when Pablo Larrazabal hit the ball into the side-viewing stand, narrowly missing the spectators. The ball miraculously ricocheted off and then back on to the course. "If only this was snooker" one of the spectators near by said out loud.  Also on the 17th, Sergio Garcia stunned the crowed by an amazing birdie, but sadly messed it up on the 18th:- "I though I could get it to 2 over for the tournament, if I kept playing well, given the weather conditions being better than yesterday. Obviously 10 and 11, rubbed on me a little bit and it took me a little while to get over it. I made the birdie on 17, but then screwed up on 18th, with a 3 putt bogey."

After Jean Van de Velde's round, he was asked:- "Were the criticisms of the course fair?" to this he replied:- "The morning was brutal. The images I saw, the weather was out of control. It was I guess in the morning a bit borderline. But that's the luck of the draw. You need to be lucky with the elements. You could argue 11 played a bit long in the conditions, but what can you do? The pins were the elements, some serious slopes out there. It was very hard to make up and downs. If you get off to a bad start, you get frustrated and then all you see is difficulty on the course. On 15, I got to the green in four and I had a horrible putt, finding the wrong side of the crest, maybe eight yards away and I three putted! It's easy for things like that to happen."

Having a very bad day was Mark O'Meara, who after his round told the media that:- "I putted so badly for two days, my short game wasn't very good and golf striking wise, it wasn't too good either. Having said that I actually hit the ball better today than I did yesterday! I just started making bogies, three putting… Conditions were pretty similar to yesterday, a bit misty when we first started off. I actually hit the ball good on the front nine and shot over, but then I dropped seven shots on the back. So I am not really a happy camper right now." The question:- "You don't think you'll be here for the weekend then on 11 over?" was put to him. He quickly responded:- "No! I don't think so - unfortunately."

The enigmatic figure of John Daly teed off in mid afternoon to rapturous applause from the packed galleries. The self styled wildman may not be the Daly of old but, against his doctor's orders, has made it to the Championship. A thunderous drive whistled over the crowd like an exocet, but 14 over, after the seventh hole, does not bode well for him, as he trudged off, hands in pockets.

Colin Montgomerie too is being followed by a heavy crowd presence which would be delighted to see the Scotsman succeed on Sunday evening. The course itself is superb for the spectators with the many vantage points on high ground bringing unobstructed views for them.

After Greg Norman had topped the leader board for most of the day, a new name eclipsed him as the evening light faded. KJ Choi from Korea, with a stunning putt on the 18th hole, became the name at the top of the pile, birdies on the 17th and 18th holes securing him the honour.

Current champion, Padraig Harrington finished a respectable 2 over par, setting himself up nicely for the last 2 days. Englishman Ian Poulter, a vision in turquoise check trousers, finished on plus 3.

Colin Montgomerie saved his bacon on the 18th to qualify for tomorrow's third day, to the delight of the crowd, who had lingered to watch the old warhorse in action. A magnificent lofted shot at the 17th hole setting him up nicely.

With the weather outlook for the rest of the Championship is looking to be very changeable, with Saturday having a forecast of:- "sunny intervals with a risk of a few showers. Winds North Westerly 35 to 45mph, gusting." Sunday being Mainly dry with sunny spells, but risks of showers. Winds decreasing from 35mph to 15 to 20mph. And gusts of up to 25mph predicted…" it will be interesting to see what will happen As Serio Garcia said:- "It is still a wide open tournament and I have to keep fighting hard, there's still two days to go and they are going to be tough conditions."

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