Lytham St. Annes, England – There is no one, no one, in the field this week that can elicit a crowd reaction the way 62-year-old Tom Watson can.
Not Tiger Woods. Not Phil Mickelson. Not Rory McIlroy, nor any local son of England can bring the galleries to their collective feet like Watson, a five- time winner of the Claret Jug.
On Friday, he didn't disappoint.
Watson was 2-over and 3-over for the tournament when he drove into a fairway bunker at 17. The ball was six feet below his feet, but Watson hit a spectacular approach 15 feet short of the hole.
Watson 3-putted and his hopes of making the cut seemed dashed.
That was until Watson made it to 18.
He rolled in a 25-foot birdie putt to get to 3-over par and, after much back and forth at the end of the round, it turned out to be enough to make the weekend at Royal Lytham & St. Annes.
"That was lucky," Watson said of his birdie putt to make the cut on 18. "I pushed it and it broke more than I thought it would. I was as surprised as anyone."
The galleries will be overjoyed to see Watson, but one of the greatest Open competitors in history will be just as happy.
"It means a great deal to play against the kids again, one more time," Watson said in a televised interview. "I have visions of someday having the same days as I had as a kid at my age. It would be great to see everything go in the hole again."
RAIN HARDLY MATTERED
Royal Lytham & St. Annes got hammered by overnight rain, but the storm didn't halt or delay play.
"We've had far more rain overnight than we were expecting, unfortunately," R&A chief executive Peter Dawson told BBC Radio Five Live. "The course can take it as the drainage here is good. There is some standing water but we can play golf and the Rules of Golf will deal with the casual water."
The areas most plagued by the standing water were bunkers. Several players got free drops, although reigning PGA Champion Keegan Bradley, unhappy with where his drop would be, elected to play from a mini pond.
Bradley donned the rain gear, hopped into the puddle and blasted out. He went on to bogey the hole.
Rory McIlroy took a free drop at the 17th, but, in the damp sand, his ball plugged. McIlroy bogeyed that hole as well.
EARLY FLIGHT HOME FOR PHIL
This week marked the 80th start in a major championship for Phil Mickelson, already a Hall of Famer.
He took forever to finally earn that first win, the 2004 Masters. Mickelson donned the green jacket twice more and took home the 2005 PGA Championship as well.
The Open Championship has confounded him.
It's the major he has the worst record at and links golf doesn't appear to fit his shot shape.
But Mickelson left himself a small reason for optimism.
Last year, he tied for second behind Darren Clarke at Royal St. George's. It was his best finish at The Open, and he played well last week in spurts at the Scottish Open.
Mickelson wasn't exactly brimming with confidence heading into the week, but there was some positivity shining through.
It got dark quick.
Mickelson started with a 3-over 73 on Thursday, then made 3 double bogeys en route to a 78 on Friday. The 11-over finish left him nowhere near the cut line and for just the eighth time in his career and third time since 2000, Mickelson missed the cut in a major.
* Leader Brandt Snedeker matched the 36-hole tournament scoring record with his 10-under 130. Nick Faldo established the original mark at Muirfield in 1992.
* Neither of the two amateurs in the field, Alan Dunbar and Manuel Trappel, made the cut.
* Defending champion Darren Clarke won't make it two in a row. He missed the cut, which fell at 3-over par, by four shots and became the first winner since Todd Hamilton in 2005 to miss the cut the year after his victory.
* Other former winners who missed the cut were: Tom Lehman, who won at Royal Lytham in 1996, David Duval, the last winner at this venue in 2001, Stewart Cink, Sandy Lyle, Hamilton, Justin Leonard and Ben Curtis.
* The hardest hole through two rounds has been the par-4 third, which was has played to an average of 4.50.
* The easiest hole after 36 holes has been the par-4 16th, which has played to an average of 3.84.