The Open 2019: Brooks Koepka, Lee Westwood & Tiger Woods feature in round two snapshots
|The 148th Open Championship, Royal Portrush|
|Dates: 18-21 July|
|Coverage: Live text updates and in-play clips on BBC Sport website, with live commentary on BBC Radio 5 Live and daily highlights on BBC Two. Full details|
When Brooks Koepka finished speaking after the second-round 69 that put him tucked in behind the leaders in the metaphorical long grass at Portrush, the temptation was to take another look at the leaderboard to make sure his name was actually on it and not some kind of optical illusion.
The American wasn't happy. He was unsmiling and frustrated. Didn't hit it great. Holed no putts. Five under was disappointing. Had the putter been warmer he'd have been 10 under or better, he said. "Gotta clean it up," he said, with the body language of a man who'd done a Duval.
"You're only three off the lead," it was said.
"I'm hanging around," he replied.
"You're bang there..."
"I'm not where I wanted to be."
"You'd rather be leading?"
"No," he smiled. " I'd rather be in last place."
Fair enough, that last question was asking to be given the Koepka treatment, but what was illustrative of the tense exchanges over the course of five minutes was the four-time major winner's standards. They're sky high. On the first page of the leaderboard at the halfway point? Not good enough. Trailing half a dozen others, but still close enough to strike? Not good enough. "Had a good chance to get to six under on 17," he sighed. "I found a way to screw it up."
Beware the wounded golfer.
The second round of the 148th Open was endlessly fascinating and kinda weird at the same time. Shane Lowry, with four missed cuts in a row in The Open, found joy in the rain. JB Holmes, who hadn't made the weekend in six of his last seven tournaments coming into Portrush, metamorphosed into a serious golfer. Lee Westwood, who never managed to start an Open with two rounds in the 60s during his peak years, finally did so at the age of 46.
Justin Harding, the South African with no Open experience beyond a missed cut at Muirfield six years ago, shot 65 and made a mockery of the notion that prior knowledge of this gorgeous links gave a competitive advantage.
Pulled shots, hooked shots, pure shots - snapshots everywhere.
Tom Lehman says goodbye
The winner at Lytham in 1996 was playing in his 24th and last Open. He missed the cut and bade an emotional farewell. His exemption now expired, Lehman has played his last shot in this tournament and spoke wonderfully about his life and times on the links.
"There was emotion for sure," the 60-year-old American said. "You don't really know how you're going to react. This was very sweet. Tears of joy."
With his son on his bag, the Lehmans walked up 18 and savoured the moment. "I just said to him how much I loved him. There was nobody in the world I'd rather be walking down the fairway with. 'It means a lot to me you're here by my side'."
Heavens above, golf is schmaltzy at times, but a heart of stone would have trembled a little bit listening to Lehman.
Lee Westwood says 'no worms in that divot'
With a second at St Andrews in 2000, a third at Muirfield in 2013 and at Turnberry at 2009 and a fourth at Troon in 2004, the Englishman is playing in his 25th Open this week. Does he feel expectation? No. Does he feel pressure of any kind? No. Right there in contention after two rounds he treats questions about him potentially winning what would be a most richly deserved first major with a wry smile. You're not thinking about winning? "No."
That might change in the coming days but right enough Westwood is the epitome of calm as he talks about his caddie, Helen Storey, who also happens to be his girlfriend. "Obviously, I get on well with Helen," he smiled after his second-round 67, the lowest he's gone at an Open in nine years.
"She doesn't know too much about golf but she knows a lot about the way my mind works. There's more to caddying than carrying and getting the right wind direction. You'd be surprised about the sort of things we talk about out there. The favourite one was from Denmark [in September] in the first week she caddied for me.
"I took out a divot and she's walking back with the divot like this [holding out an imaginary piece of grass as if it's a ticking bomb] and I said, 'What's wrong?' She said, 'I hope there's not a worm in this'. It makes me smile. It's a big advantage."
Beware the relaxed golfer.
JB Holmes says 'Doggone'
You want surreal? Well, here it is. JB Holmes has just shot 68 to go with his 66 from Thursday and at this stage of the day he leads the Open Championship. He comes in to talk and, sure, there's chat about his round, his game and his aspirations, but mostly the talk is about his dog, a goldendoodle by the name of Ace. Man, he loves that dog.
"He sleeps with us in the bed, he's part of the family." He's not here in Portrush. That's a blow. "My son is not here and my dog is gone. We FaceTime the son. Ace hears our voice, but he doesn't much like the phone."
You sense that Holmes is happier talking about Ace than he is about golf. He got him at an auction. Five thousand bucks. Brings him everywhere on the PGA Tour. "He's been on hundreds of planes. I don't know how many, but a bunch."
A golf question now. What keeps him from winning more tournaments. Holmes paused for a second before answering: "Go back to the dog questions," he replied.
Tiger Woods says 'I just want to go home'
The great man bettered his Thursday score by eight shots - a 70 compared to a 78 - but he missed the cut by a street and said he wants to get back to warmer climes to rest his ailing body. Time was when Woods did a passable impression of Superman, but he doesn't bother with the pretence now.
He talks about his stresses and strains. He speaks openly about how things have changed for him. He can't do the things he used to be able to do. He's never going to be the golfer he once was. Only occasionally will he be fit enough to contend, as was the case in the Masters. That's his new reality. Basically, he spent the week telling everybody, "Get used to it".
He departed with a comment that will have the good people of Portrush purring. Asked what he thought of the reception he received he began, "Oh my God" before delivering a paean to Portrush. "They (the people) were incredible," he said. "They were so nice and so respectful. The kids were so respectful. That's not always the case when we trade around the world. We hear some rude comments from the kids. I think the adults kind of teach them that. We'd couldn't have played in front of a better fanbase than here at Portrush."
A Claret Jug for charm to the former champion.
Erik van Rooyen says 'I have magic trousers' - or something like that
The emerging South African, who spends an inordinate amount of time high up on leaderboards on the European Tour, shot 68 in his second round for a four-under halfway total. Can he win? Possibly. He was 17th at Carnoustie last year.
In his press stuff he was asked seven questions. One about his Open chances and six about his fantastically strange ankle-baring trousers. "Different, but classy," he said of his much talked-about purple strides. "Not out there with a wacky bunch of flashy colours and that kind of things." No, of course. I mean, that would be silly.
"If you're going to wear it, you've got to own it. I feel like I'm owning it." Quite, Erik.
In Saturday's third round - Lowry versus Holmes in the Battle of the Beards and assorted other eccentricities and brilliance and drama of the richest kind.