GULLANE, Scotland, July 19 (Reuters) - What a difference a day made for Americans Mark O‘Meara and Tom Lehman as the two senior citizens became victims of Muirfield’s fickle finger of fate in the British Open second round on Friday.
Lehman, who won the third major of the season at Lytham in 1996, opened his campaign with an excellent three-under 68 on Thursday and kept up his challenge by reaching the turn in 37.
The 54-year-old, however, frittered away a succession of strokes on the back nine as he struggled to cope with the quicksilver links greens.
“That was really ugly golf,” Lehman told reporters after sliding to a six-over 77 on another day of glorious sunshine on the east coast of Scotland.
”From the beginning to the end it just seems like I got progressively worse.
”I‘m not happy with it. I was hanging in there, actually it felt like I was getting something going, and then I made a stupid bogey on 12.
“Then I hit a pretty good second on 15 that almost went in the hole and it snuck off to the back bunker from where I made a double bogey, so disaster,” added Lehman after finishing with a three-over total of 145.
“I was thinking a two and I ended up with a six. You’ve got to be unflappable, no doubt about it - to get frustrated with the greens would have been counter-productive.”
Lehman said the low rounds he plays in his 50s are as good as they were in his heyday. The problem is that the poor performances are much worse than they were during his glory days.
“Bunkers that are out of play for the younger guys are in play for me and today was a good example,” he explained.
O‘Meara was the surprise package of the opening round as he blitzed his way into joint second place on 67.
But the second round was a completely different story for the 56-year-old who limped to a 78 including dropped strokes at four of the last five holes.
”That was a tough day,“ said O‘Meara after joining Lehman on 145. ”I didn’t drive it as good as I did yesterday and I had a lost ball on the sixth.
”The course was offering a different wind direction but it was still very playable, a good test, and I just played pretty poorly.
“Yesterday I hit it good and drove it really well, hit 15 greens. I also missed a lot of greens today and my short game wasn’t that good,” said the 1998 Open champion.
“You can shoot seven-over quickly here, it can happen fast. (But) at least I‘m playing on the weekend and that’s a nice thing to be here in an Open championship and have a chance.”
American Justin Leonard, 41, who won the Open at Troon in 1997, also looks set to make the cut after shooting a 70 for 144. (Editing by Ed Osmond)