Tennessee native Brandt Snedeker confounded the draw to seize a commanding lead in the second round of the 141st Open Championship.
Playing in the company of Alex Noren and Marc Leishman, the Vanderbilt alum, a three-time winner on the PGA Tour, carded a six-under-par 64 to match his opening 66, a score he recorded in the most trying of Thursday’s conditions (there was *gasp* a light breeze!).
Snedeker began his day by taking immediate advantage of an increasingly sodden layout, birdieing Lytham’s opening hole for the second day in succession. Additional gains at the sixth, seventh and ninth ensured he made the turn in 30 shots.
Where his front nine had been an exercise in perfection – a parade of sensible tee shots, crisp irons and confident putts – the run to the clubhouse proved a more swashbuckling affair, salvaged by a brace of impressive par saves at the 14th and 18th.
Indeed, the 31-year-old’s negotiation of the latter proved a highlight of the round.
Forced to muscle a pitch back into the fairway after a pushed drive leaked into the thickest of rough lining the fairway’s right side, his approach, a lofted wedge spun to within four feet of the hole, betrayed little of the pressure he must have been feeling.
Met with a roar of approval from the gallery, Snedeker’s conversion of the subsequent putt preserved what was then a four-shot lead and ensured his place in Open Championship history as one of only two players to record a 36-hole total of 130 (-10).
Incredibly, he’ll begin tomorrow’s penultimate round as the only player in the 156-man field yet to record a bogey.
Though calm, soft conditions have conspired to render low scoring a possibility, the strategic questions posed by this Lytham layout have exerted a strange psychological hold over the vast majority. Nervous fear of the venue’s 208 bunkers and knee-high rough has prevented all but the most determined from making headway against par.
Among the less successful can be numbered pre-tournament favourites Rory McIlroy and Padraig Harrington, both projected to make the cut (+2) by a single shot, and world No3 Lee Westwood (+3).
Phil Mickelson is free to make alternative plans for the weekend, however; at 11-over-par for the tournament, he’s currently alongside Paul Casey in a tie for 148th place.