Friday, 26 September 2008

Singh leads at the Belfry... No, not that one

There were aces galore at the second round of the British Masters. Everyone was getting in on the act; Three hole-in-ones on a single day at the same event. A Record for the European Tour. Phillip Archer hit his eagle one at the par-three 7th, while Spaniard Alvaro Quiros nabbed his at the 12th. The third came with a certain Mr Singh also at the 7th. No, not Vijay, he's too busy filling his wallet in America, this was India's Jeev Milkha Singh, a player not quite in the league of Vijay but one of the most improved players on the European Tour.

Jeev Milkha Singh joined Lee Westwood at the top of the leaderboard with his 7th hole ace helping him to six under par but he has completed only 12 holes because of a delayed start due to fog. The "Ace" itself was a peach of a shot, which pitched short of the hole and rolled like a dart straight into the middle of the cup. It's a stated aim of Singh, currently ranked 60th in the world, to make the top 50 by the end of the year, and a good finish here will go a long way towards that goal.

Spain's Alejandro Canizares, Thailand's Thongchai Jaidee (an ex-professional footballer, that's proper football, soccer for my American chums) and Scot Marc Warren all finished their rounds are on five under in a tie for third as things stand. Many players will have to return in the morning to complete their rounds because of that fog.

That includes Darren Clarke who has six holes left in which to pull off a minor miracle to make the cut. He hit an 80 yesterday including a woeful quadruple bogey 8 on hole 6, but if he can pick up four shots in those six holes he would make the cut. With two par fives to play, anything's possible, but maybe I'm being a tad optimistic. Make that very optimistic... The pint of Guinness he was seen enjoying after yesterday's horror round clearly did him some good though, back to back birdies on nine and ten have at least left him that slim chance.

What Clarke will probably be more pleased about was the gesture today of all players turning out in Pink clothing to raise awareness of Breast Cancer. Clarke of course lost his wife Heather two years ago to breast cancer and it's been a great feature of how the golfing fraternity are up for continuing to support Clarke and the cause. It wasn't left at the players wearing pink at the Ryder Cup two years ago, they've kept up their efforts. Great to see.

Colin Montgomerie of course had an even worse round than Darren yesterday, but he'd sorted out his problems today, in with a 69. Nowhere near the cut at 6 over, but it shows what he is capable of still when his head's right. I dare any of you to write him off, even if he is going to drop out of the top 100. I certainly won't be.

Clarke's Northern Irish compatriot Graeme McDowell slipped to three over, just inside the projected cut mark and told how he was really feeling the burn after last week's titanic efforts in Louisville.

"I don't know how to deal with this 'comedown' feeling. Lee has learnt how to deal with things better than I have. Physically I'm probably not all there, but mentally definitely - if last week was 11 out of 10 then I'm five out of 10 this week."

He's every right to be feeling that way, he holed a good years worth of stellar putts last week, that must take it out of you.

Westwood went off like a steam train this morning, birdie coming on all three starting holes but it got a little scrappy after that. Four bogey's and three more birdies left him with a 70 and the clubhouse lead on six under. Still a decent performance, but not enough for Lee.

"I would hope to play better tomorrow. I made a big effort and my scrambling was good. I've worked hard on my short game and when I'm feeling a bit lethargic it can get me out of a bit of trouble."

He certainly has worked on it, he's not just a big biffer and a good putter anymore, the subtle art of chipping has been added to his repertoire. It's probably going to require Jeev to produce a few more aces from up his sleeve to stay with him over the weekend...

Friday's best shots at the British Masters

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