Woods struggling to make cut at surprise-filled Open
TURNBERRY, Scotland — Tiger Woods came into the British Open as an overwhelming favorite to win his 15th major championship.
In the howling winds of Turnberry, it looked as though he wouldn't even make the cut.
Woods lost his ball with an errant tee shot, took two double bogeys and was 7 over with five holes left today, needing a miraculous comeback just to return on Saturday.
Woods had missed the cut in only one major championship as a professional, the 2006 U.S. Open following the death of his father. He didn't play last year at Birkdale while recovering from knee surgery, but three wins since his return to the PGA Tour led oddsmakers to make him a 2-1 favorite.
Instead, the leaderboard was topped by little-known American Steve Marino, with a pair of old-timers right on his heels.
Marino looked right at home in his first Open appearance, shooting a 2-under 68 in windy conditions that put some bite in the ol' course. Forty-nine-year-old Mark Calcavecchia, with his wife on the bag, was one shot back after a 67-69 start to the tournament. But most amazing of all: 59-year-old Tom Watson rebounded from a dismal start, rolling in a 75-foot birdie putt, and was tied with Calcavecchia with only the 18th left to play.
"I'm real happy with the way things have gone," said Calcavecchia, who won his lone major title 20 years ago, right up the road at Troon. "I'm getting some good bounces, and I'm getting lucky on occasion, which always helps."
With props to his father for sending along his passport, Marino claimed the lead all to himself at 5-under 135, safely in the clubhouse while most everyone else surrendered ground to the breezes whipping off the Firth of Clyde.
All eyes were on Woods, who opened with a disappointing 71 in much better conditions Thursday, trudged through the front nine showing no signs of making a move, then began to fall apart after the turn.
Woods' tee shot at No. 10 sailed wildly into the tall grass far right of the fairway — a familiar problem both days — and it was clear he was in trouble when he struck a provisional tee shot. Even with dozens of fans helping him look, Woods could only find someone else's ball, took a penalty for a lost ball and wound up with a double-bogey 6.
Then, from the first cut of rough only 159 yards away, Woods shockingly wound up with another double-bogey 6. A ragged approach missed the green, a sloppy chip failed to stay on, and a missed putt from about 5 feet sent him tumbling into an even deeper hole.
Watson followed a bogey-free 65 with bogeys on five of the first seven holes — including four in a row. Just when it seemed he was fading away, the five-time Open champion bounced back with two birdies around the turn. His best shot of all was at No. 16, the 75-footer that dropped right in the center of the cup.
Watson threw up his arms and pumped his fists while the gallery roared.
Marino, who struggled for years to earn his PGA Tour card, got in as an alternate though he had to improvise to make it happen.
"I didn't have a passport," he said. "I had to fly my dad down to Florida so he could get my passport and FedEx it to me. ... I wasn't even expecting to play in this tournament."
His father dashed down to the sunshine state from his home in Virginia, sent along the passport to his son playing in the John Deere Classic and flew back — all in the same day. When Shingo Katayama withdrew from the Open last weekend because of an injury, Marino received the spot.
Though he had never played on a true links course, Marino felt his game was suited to a style of golf that requires imagination and low ball flight.
"I would consider myself a feel player," he said. "I kind of see shots before I hit them. I don't really hit the same shot every time. Over here, you kind of have to be that way a little bit and hit some low shots and some high shots and bounce them in there and use the slopes. I've really been enjoying the golf over here, for sure."
For most, this was a day for surviving.
First-round leader Miguel Angel Jimenez struggled to a 73 but wasn't too upset about it. The ponytailed, cigar-smoking Spaniard got off to a grisly start — a 4-over 39 on the front — but held it together and joined the pack at 137.
"I'm pleased the way I finished, not very pleased with the way I started," Jimenez said. "You need to put it on the fairways, and I started missing the fairways for a little bit."
Japan's Kenichi Kuboya had the lead for a while, but lost it — along with his ball — when an errant tee shot at No. 13 led to double bogey. A 72 kept him in contention among that crowded group at 137, which also included England's Ross Fisher (68) and South Africa's Retief Goosen (70).
John Daly, who won at St. Andrews in 1995, made it to an Open weekend for the first time in four years when a 72 left him at 140.
"It was brutal out there," moaned Daly, who might have said the same about his psychedelic green pants. "The pin placements were extremely tough. The way the wind was blowing, it was impossible to get at them.
"The course — whether it is calm or blowing — your are always 5 feet or 5 inches from a disaster."
Just ask Ben Curtis, the 2003 Open champion, who was unlikely to miss the cut after an opening 65 had him challenging for the lead. Curtis soared to an 80 in the second round.
"I just hit it bad," he said. "I got lucky yesterday with the weather. That helped me keep it in play. Today was different."