Watson the model for leader Snedeker
Open Championship leader Brandt Snedeker said that a recent round of golf with five-time winner Tom Watson was the catalyst which transformed him from being a no-hoper on links to a potential champion.
The 31-year-old from Nashville lit up the second round of the tournament at Royal Lytham on Friday for a course record-equalling 64 and a halfway total of 130, the equal best of all time at The Open.
That left him two shots clear of second-place Adam Scott, who had three holes to go in his second round.
It was a performance, Snedeker said, that left him in a state of shock, especially as in three previous Open campaigns he had failed to make a single cut or even better 70.
It wasn't due to any dislike for the peculiar demands of playing on links, said Snedeker, who on the contrary has a particular fondness for seaside golf, but was just that he could not get the hang of it.
Enter Watson, one of the all-time greatest proponents of links golf.
"Well, it helped a bunch playing with him," Snedeker said.
"He told me the first time over here he wasn't a big fan of links golf. The second time he played he loved it.
"You've got to kind of embrace it, realise that you're going to get good bounces, bad bounces, expect the worst and hope for the best."
It was certainly the best that Snedeker produced in damp, cold Lancashire conditions on Friday morning.
He opened wth a birdie on the par-three first for the second straight day and reached the turn in four-under 30.
Two more birdies came his way at 11 and 12 and when his game went somewhat off down the rest of the back nine his putter invariably came to his rescue.
In two rounds the American has not allowed a single bogey and, more incredibly, he has yet to go into any of Lytham's 206 trademark pot bunkers.
In his own words, he said he had been playing "boring golf", far removed from the aggressive target variety he usually plays back home in the United States.
"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 hopefully plan on doing the next few days," he said.
It is not the first time that Snedeker has been in the hunt for what would be a first major title, having gone close at the 2008 Masters before Trevor Immelman won.
He played alongside the South African in the final pairing of the third and last rounds that year and he said he learned a lot from watching the way the South African handled himself.
"To watch Trevor handle the emotions and play the way he did the last 18 really taught me a lot about what you're going to have to go through," he said.
"It wasn't an easy day that day at Augusta. It was real tough. I remember watching him kind of handle himself around the golf course, the way he kind of plotted his way around the golf course.
"It's something you're going to have to do in the course of four rounds."
Snedeker is back to full fitness after a curious injury earlier in the year when he cracked a rib from a bout of severe couging.
That forced him to skip the US Open last month and he only made it back to play at the Greenbrier Classic tournament two weeks ago where he tied for 38th.
But he said that he would take confidence into a weekend which could see him become the fourth major winner in a row to come from the Uniited States, all of them first-time major champions.
"This weekend I feel prepared," he said.
"I've been in some pretty tight spots in the States and I've been playing in playoffs and playing against the best players in the world and stuff like that.
"So I kind of know what pressure feels like. Obviously it's going to be a lot more over the weekend, but I've got something to fall back on."