Aiken soars, Big Easy rallies
Thomas Aiken fired a second-round 68 to surge to the top of the South African leaderboard, and end tied fifth overall going into the weekend at the Open Championship at Royal Lytham and St Annes on Friday.
Aiken is four under after 36 holes, six behind the lead held by American Brandt Snedeker. Australian Adam Scott finished nine under par for the two rounds. Tiger Woods was also lurking in third place on six under.
Aiken said he would draw on previous experience in the final two rounds, as he pointed out -- he finished just three shots off a playoff in the 2009 Open where Stewart Cink beat Tom Watson for the Claret Jug.
“In 2009 I only lost the Open by three shots,” said Aiken after his round.
“It's not foreign territory for me. I've been there before, I know what to expect. I know that you've just got to stay patient and hit one shot at a time.
Aiken also said he preferred when the weather conditions were not too challenging.
“With the conditions as benign as they were this afternoon, I knew that if you make one mistake you can make a big number.”
Meanwhile, Ernie Els rallied from a poor start to shoot a level par 70 to stay in contention.
Speaking after his round, Els was a little disappointed with his efforts.
“I shot 70, but on the back nine it really could have been a little better,” said Els.
“I think with all the rain it didn't quite roll the same for me as yesterday [Thursday]. The surfaces were a little bit different.”
“I missed quite a few putts but I'm playing nicely.”
The Big Easy found himself in heaps of trouble early on in his round as he was one over par after six holes. The sixth hole in particular, Els was lucky to escape with bogey after a pulled tee shot with a driver. He was able to wrestle his approach out the rough to just short of the green, but proceeded to chip his third shot long into a greenside bunker. From the sand he was unable to go at the hole and played out left leaving a lengthy putt. Els made his best stroke of the day as he rolled the ball in to drop just the single shot.
On the short par four 10th hole, Els compounded his misery with a costly three putt to surrender another shot and leave himself two over for the round.
Coming home he picked up a birdie on the 14th where he made a sarcastic fist-pump as he had kept missing good chances before that point.
On his final hole, Els managed to pick up another shot as he rolled in a putt from the fringe of the green to end his round at level par, and with an outside chance for a run at victory over the weekend.
“I was just trying to push, to get some birdies, especially on my second nine I three putted 10 and I missed a short birdie on 11. If I made those two maybe it could have been a little different.”
Still out on the course was Thomas Aiken, who was two under for his second round and at four under for the tournament with three holes left to play.
Earlier, Louis Oosthuizen (68), Garth Mulroy (69), and Retief Goosen (70) all ended tied 28th on level par for 36 holes.
Richard Sterne (73) and Branden Grace (69) were both at two over for two rounds and made the cut in a tie for 51st.
It meant seven of the 14 South Africans made the cut.
Outside the cut mark of three over, on four over were Jbe Kruger (76), Charl Schwartzel (75) and George Coetzee (70).
Andrew Georgio ended at eight over with a second successive 74.
Trevor Immelman was nine over with a second round 75, while Tim Clark finished 10 over after a 74.
Grant Veenstra missed the weekend at 16 over for his two rounds.