BRANDT SNEDEKER SEIZED command of the Open with a stunning six-under par 64 second round today, matching the low 36-hole total in Open history and Royal Lytham’s 18-hole course record.
The 31-year-old American, who missed the cut in his three prior British Open starts, reached the clubhouse on 10-under 130, having avoided for the second day in a row all 206 bunkers that lurk for wayward shots at the links layout.
“To hit it in no bunkers around here, you have to get lucky,” Snedeker said. “I don’t expect that stat to hold over the weekend.”
McIlroy, last year’s US Open winner, struggled to a 75 to stand on 142 with Belgian Nicolas Colsaerts, who fired a 77 after an opening 65, and fellow Irishman Padraig Harrington, with bogeys on three of the last four holes to shoot 72.
“It was just one of those days where I couldn’t quite get on my game and struggled to get any sort of momentum,” McIlroy said. “Making a double on the ninth was sort of the turning point in the round. I couldn’t really recover.”
Snedeker, who withdrew from last month’s US Open after suffering a cracked rib on the right side of his chest from severe coughing, equalled the record 36-hole Open record set by Nick Faldo in 1992 at Muirfield. Australian Adam Scott, who fired a 64 yesterday to match the course record set by Tom Lehman in the third round in 1996 and equalled by Snedeker, stood second on eight-under through 13 holes.
Tiger Woods, the 14-time major champion seeking his first major title since 2008, made the turn at five-under to stand third, five strokes adrift. On a day when challenging conditions sent scores soaring, steady Snedeker birdied six of the first 12 holes and parred in, solving Royal Lytham for his second bogey-free round in a row, the only player who managed that feat.
“No bogeys around here is getting some good breaks and playing some pretty good golf,” Snedeker said. “I call it boring golf. I’m shooting away from every pin, trying to put it 25-30 feet away and hopefully make some putts, which I’ve done the first two days and plan on doing the next few days.”
Snedeker, whose best finish in 19 prior major starts was a share of third at the 2008 Masters, won his third career US PGA title in January at Torrey Pines and admitted he was shocked to be leading and far from overconfident.
“I can’t taste it. We’ve got a long way to go,” Snedeker said. “It’s a great feeling. A great experience, but it gets you a whole lot of nothing. I’ve got a cushion, which is nice. I don’t have to play the best golf over the next 36 holes. I have to play good golf but maybe not the best of anybody.”
World No 1 Luke Donald of England, eight strokes adrift, warned that Royal Lytham would offer more issues at the weekend.
“It’s never easy playing with a lead,” Donald said. “It’s one of those courses you can be a little bit off and struggle.”
Snedeker faces the press after his round. Nick Potts/PA Wire/Press Association Images
Snedeker opened with a birdie for the second day in a row and added another at the sixth. He birdied the par-5 seventh and par-3 ninth for a two-stroke lead at the turn, then hit a 25-foot putt to birdie the par-5 11th hole for the second day in a row and followed with a birdie at the par-3 12th as well.
“I’m making every 25-footer I look at,” Snedeker said. “That makes it a lot easier.”
Snedeker thrived in conditions that frustrated other contenders, including World No. 2 Rory McIlroy. Wet greens prompted tougher pin placements, water puddled in bunkers and an unusual east wind gave players a daunting test.
“It wasn’t a strong wind but it was a different direction than we played in the practice rounds, so there was a little bit of adjusting,” Donald said.
Donald took a bogey at the third but birdied the next three holes on his way to a 68 to stand on 138 alongside American Steve Stricker and New Zealand’s Steven Alker.
“I’m certainly feeling more and more comfortable,” Donald said. “It’s nice to put a couple of solid rounds together in a major. Obviously where I am in my career I need to be contending.”
Donald, seeking his first major title, wants to be the first Englishman to win the Open on home soil since Tony Jacklin at Royal Lytham in 1969.
Four-time major champion Phil Mickelson fired a 78 with double bogeys at the sixth, 13th and 14th holes to miss the cut at a major for only the eighth time in his career, the first since the 2007 British Open.
More to follow