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British Open notebook

Marino swoops in to share spotlight

By Paul Newberry and Doug Ferguson
Associated Press / July 18, 2009
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TURNBERRY, Scotland - Who was on base when Bobby Thomson hit his famous homer? Who doled out all those assists the night Wilt Chamberlain scored 100 points?

They could probably relate to Steve Marino.

The unheralded American got into the British Open as an alternate, had to fly his dad to Florida to send along his passport, and found himself with the 36-hole lead at golf’s oldest major.

Marino’s second straight round in the 60s yesterday was overshadowed by two other developments of some interest. Fifty-nine-year-old Tom Watson rolled in two long putts to tie Marino for the top spot, and Tiger Woods headed home after missing the cut.

Watson became the oldest player to lead a major at the end of a round. Woods missed the cut in a major for only the second time in his pro career. And Marino likely became the obscure answer to some future trivia question.

Of course, he could change all that by playing well enough over the next two days to get his name engraved on the claret jug.

“Obviously, it’s an advantage to have experience,’’ the 29-year-old Marino said after shooting a 2-under-par 68 that left him tied with Watson at 5-under 135. “But it can be an advantage to not have experience.’’

In his second round, Marino pulled off one improbable shot after another. He holed out a sand wedge from 116 yards at No. 3, and did the same from a bunker for another birdie at the sixth. There also was a 30-footer for birdie at No. 5, not to mention a 20-footer for eagle at the 17th.

“It was probably one of the best scoring rounds I’ve ever had,’’ said Marino, a former standout at the University of Virginia where he was a teammate of Brookline’s James Driscoll. “There were points in the round where I felt I was one-putting every hole. I really don’t think I could have shot one stroke less today, to be honest with you.’’

Crowds not up to par
The attendance for the second round of the Open was estimated at 28,000. Apparently, most of them got lost on their way to the grandstands lining the 18th green.

When Watson and Woods finished their rounds the stands were about half-full on both sides.

The Royal & Ancient said ticket sales were slightly up - there were 25,000 people at Turnberry in the second round in 1994 - but cautioned that this links course simply doesn’t hold as many spectators as St. Andrews or Royal Birkdale.

The economy played a role, too, not to mention that Turnberry is one of the few links where a train doesn’t run through town.

Even longtime coaches and agents have commented on thin galleries.

“The galleries were massive inside the ropes with our group,’’ said Lee Westwood, joking about the photographers covering the threesome of Westwood, Woods, and Ryo Ishikawa of Japan.

A loud exit
Ian Poulter brought the clothes, just not the game. One day, the Union Jack was part of his vest and he shot 75. He went with fuschia pants and shot 79. So it’s not the clothes. And it wasn’t the course, either. Nor was it the clubs. “I hit my last good shot on the third [hole] - [Thursday],’’ Poulter said. “Seriously, there were no decent golf shots out there. If you’re going to play as bad as I played for two days, it doesn’t matter what golf course you’re playing. It could have been the easiest municipal down the road, and I would have missed the cut. It was horrible.’’ That it? “I could have had a set of spades in my bag this week and I still wouldn’t have found the middle of the greens,’’ he said . . . John Daly, who won the British Open in 1995 at St. Andrews, had a 72 and was at even-par 140, making the cut in a major for the first time since the PGA Championship two years ago.