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Shipnuck: Blogging Round 2

Shipnuck Alan Shipnuck, senior writer for Sports Illustrated, covered the early rounds on Friday, and Gary Van Sickle took the afternoon shift.

7:59 a.m. PT As I sign off and head for the land of nod, let's try to sum up where we are a round and a half into this Open. To be sure, the leaderboard has more questions than answers. Norman has been the star of the show so far but it's hard to imagine him holding on. I mean, the guy had monumental trouble closing even when he was in his prime. Among the top 12 players there are only three other major champions, and one is D squared himself, Duval, who is a nice little story but can't be considered a real threat to win. The deeper we get into the tournament the more wide open it becomes. Figure the winning score is going to be +1 or +2, meaning almost any one who makes the cut has a chance if they shoot under par tomorrow. We knew this tournament was going to feel different without Tiger and it certainly does - I can't remember the last time there was so much uncertainty on the board. I can't wait for the weekend, and not just because I get to sleep in.... Finally, without getting too misty, it's been fun hanging out with all of you. (Well, everyone but Debbie.) Thanks for the comments, which were often much more entertaining than the golf. Look for my live blog throughout the Fall Series. Yeah, right!

7:44 a.m. PT Interesting perspective from reader Bob, who says," God forbid Alan or any other golf writer just stops at one point (as another typhoon hits the course right now) and writes about how absolutely ridiculous it is for golf to be played in these conditions. Every year when the monsoons hit, writers and commentators wax romatically about how this is how golf started and this is how it was meant to be played. There's a reason they don't run marathons in the desert and have hockey games outside in Las Vegas. This is purely a casino role (were you on the course late/early or early/late?) as opposed to a test of skill." One problem with this line of thinking: Ice would melt in Vegas; golf is an outdoor game, and water does not damage grass. It's true that hellacious weather can occasionally alter the outcome (see Tiger at Muirfield) but over four days it tends to even out, and on the weekend all the leaders are on the course at more or less the same time. With golf courses becoming so manicured and equipment so precisely calibrated the only real variable left is weather, and playing through changing conditions challenges a players skill and judgement and toughness. Wet and dreary weather would be a drag every week - hey, that's why no one plays the Euro tour anymore - but once in a while it's fun to watch.

7:35 a.m. PT Question of the day: Why on earth is John Daly wearing sunglasses?

7:25 a.m. PT Wow, Debbie does outrage! Love the post below, which offers a Marxist-feminist take on our Villegas problem. To wit: "So, Camillo needs to win or go away? It's his second year on the tour. How many other players haven't won in two years? Do you say this about Tim Clark, Ian Poulter, Nick O'Hearn, David Howell, and Bo Van Pelt? I think you are jealous of Camillo's hotness. Somehow I don't think you minded Anna K. and never asked her to just go away. Personally, I would like to see more TV coverage of Camillo, as males in charge of programming would habitually feature Anna K. Hypocrites."
For the record, Clark, Poulter, O'Hern and Howell have all won around the world. (Van Pelt, I agree, is useless.) And this is Camillo's third year on tour, which is an important distinction. But I don't necessarily dispute the larger point in Debbie's post. I am definitely jealous of Camillo's hotness, and in my next life I will opt to be the Latin lover type. And no doubt SI is as guilty as anyone of overexposing Kournikova's limited charms. (See our recent 'Where Are They Now?' issue.) My overall take is that right now there are tons of talented young winners on Tour - Mahan, O'Hair, Kim, etc. -  and Villegas has a higher profile than any of them. When his game catches up to the hype he'll be a wonderful asset for golf. But until golf's resident heart-throb starts winning, he'll remain, at least for me, an irritant.

7:11 a.m. PT So let's talk Phil for a few minutes. He just teed off and needs a solid round around par to make the cut. I'm not sure there has been enough discussion about Mickelson's woes, and I'm not just referring to his horrendous round yesterday. His career was forever altered at Winged Foot and two plus years later he's still trying to find himself. His performance at Torrey Pines has to rank as one of the biggest disappointments of his star-crossed history in the majors, and if he misses the cut at Birkdale you really have to wonder if, at age 38, he'll ever get back to the dominant golf he was playing a few years ago. Lately in the majors he's had that hangdog look circa 2002 when if seemed like he was always waiting for something bad to happen.

6:59 a.m. PT You like me. You really like me. Well, at least Dave in Albany does, as he posts,"Alan, as dreary as it may be to have to blog in the dark while watching TNT's superb (ahem) coverage, please trust me when I tell you that it beats working and being able to see none of it. Your blog is keeping me afloat." First of all, let's clear up a common misconception: I am working here! It's only through endless rewriting that I can make this look so easy. Anyway, Dave, this is not going to cheer you up but I just realized it's 7 a.m. and I'm already three quarters done with my workday!

6:37 a.m. PT Wow, I forgot how much I miss Paul Azinger. His little digression about dinner with Phil - basically, he let Phil talk his ear off about the Ryder Cup in exchange for picking up the bill -   was quite tasty.

6:37 a.m. PT A rather defensive John Garrity has posted below, presumably filing via carrier pigeon. Good stuff. And a special shout-out to reader Noel in N. Ireland, who is gloating about the superiority of the BBC coverage. But in the future, buddy, don't bother typing "wet Northern Ireland." That's redundant.

6:33 a.m. PT Sergio just gagged a gimme on 18 to slump to +5. The dude is mental.

6:29 a.m. PT And you guys are accusing me of being "punchy"? Reader Jeremiah writes,"If Greg Norman and David Duval are still in contention on Sunday, more people would have a reason to watch a Tiger-less Open." Yeah, and if Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny fill out the foursome the ratings will be boffo, but I don't see any of the above mentioned factoring on Sunday.

6:15 a.m. PT Reader Chris asks,"If the current leaders can't hold on, who do you like this weekend?" Depends how you define current leaders, but if I was Bamberger, I would be preparing to write Goosen or Mediate or Furyk or Rose or Harrington. Among the top 28 players on the leaderboard this minute those are the only dudes who I think can get it done. Which brings us to Peter's post: "Do you think Mike Weir can stay near the top of the leaderboard?" No.

6:05 a.m. PT A recommendation to early risers: Basic 4 with blueberries. Good blogging demands antioxidants.

5:47 a.m. PT For at the least the second time in two days the boys at TNT have referred to Fredrik Jacobson as the "Swedish Seve". I love Jacobson, but there is and will always be only one Seve. Anyway, our many Freddy already has a great nickname: "Junkman", bestowed upon him because he makes so many unlikely pars. A +3 through two rounds he's hanging in there admirably but I don't think Junkman hits it solidly enough to survive two more rounds in poor weather.

5:38 a.m. PT Reader Dan is the leader in the clubhouse for best post with this random musing: "I have to say that I'm shocked that Garrity even knows how to use email. I always assumed that he pecked out his columns on a typewriter, shouted 'get me rewrite!', and had an intern 'put it into the computer.'" Dan, you don't know how right you are! Garrity often writes his stories longhand and then puts it into the computer, his ownself. The guy is definitely an anachronism, bless him.

5:29 a.m. PT I have just been joined by my wife and baby boy, up early for a bottle. (He's having formula, I'm opting for Bud.) Though Frances just referred to Sergio as "Jerry" and commented that the greens look "slushy", I'm still thrilled to have some company. Nobody will ever know the depths of despair that come with blogging alone in the dark.

5:17 a.m. PT Scanning the scores, I see Anthony Wall is still hanging in there, as through nine holes he's one over par on the round and tied for fifth. After reading Eamon Lynch's funny item, I'm now rooting for Wall to win. Why? Because I'm a petty bastard, and since I'm not at Birkdale to write a game story I want all my colleagues to suffer with the worst possible winner.

5:09 a.m. PT Lotsa TV critics out there. Yesterday Van Sickle did such a comprehensive job detailing TNT's woes that I don't want to offer my sloppy seconds, except to echo his complaint that too often the network fails to show how a player has finished out a hole. After showing Scott's hard-luck approach to the par-5 17th we didn't see him again til the 18th fairway. Turns out Scott got up-and-down from the back bunker on 17 for a crucial birdie but you'd know that only by noticing his score had changed to +3. (He's back to +4 after bogeying 18.) This golfus interruptus is driving me batty. 

5:01 a.m. PT Crikey, it's about time! It's taken an hour but someone out there is as grumpy as I am. Reader Les writes,"Those Lexus ads are almost as irritating as all those tear out and stuffer cards in SI. Wait! Commercialism in magazines is OK cause it pays your salary!" Actually, it's golf.com readers who are paying my salary this week, Les, so keep clicking away.

4:56 a.m. PT Someone call Protective Services, Jonathan has offered another post: "50 minutes into the telecast, and TNT still has not told us what club has been used by ANY player on ANY shot shown (or the distance to the pin on that shot). Stop talking in platitudes, TNT, and start giving us some hard-core specifics!" To which Baker-Finch might reply: "Stop typing on your computer and start burping your daughter! She's the little girl in your lap, crying."

4:44 a.m. PT Adam Scott just caught a bad break, his stellar approach at 17 carrying a foot or two too far and trickling into the back bunker. I have to say I'm disappointed in Scott's round - he's four over on the day, four over for the tournament, having failed to make a birdie since the third hole. Scott has dropped 16 spots, to 20th place. Yesterday's finish was infuriating - he was two under par and leading the Open but couldn't finish the round, making a pair of sloppy bogies when he had a chance to take early control of the tournament. Now he's on the good end of the draw but he's still letting it slip away. Everybody remembers when you choke on the weekend but at the majors Scott has a nasty habit of playing himself out of it during the first two rounds. He needs to clean it up, because this act is getting tiresome.

4:39 a.m. PT Oh gawd, it's the first Lexus ad of the telecast. Noooooo! It seems like every commercial break features that silly business featuring Annika et al and/or a plug for a Holly Hunter series I'll never watch. Makes me pine for Golf Channel's endless loop of ads for 'The Bogey Man'.

4:38 a.m. PT Just to finish off the T. Watson nonsense from yesterday, I heard from our man in Southport, John Garrity, who writes,"Sad to say, I have no idea about Watson's hair. Although, come to think of it, it is suspiciously dark. Far darker than mine, and we grew up in the same climate at the same time. Wish I could help further, blogman."

4:33 a.m. PT I seriously doubt Norman can hold up on the weekend, but no question the golf gods are smiling upon him. He is playing the 18th hole right now as the solo leader, having just saved a fantastic bogey on the 17th. The rain is just beginning to fall, meaning Norman is going to miss the worst of the conditions, just as he did yesterday afternoon. The players in the late/early tee time cycle have caught a huge break in this Open.

4:24 a.m. PT Just got an email from a kindred spirit - Jonathan - who's feeding his four month old daughter while watching the telecast. Stay strong, bro. We're in this together.

4:11 a.m. PT The big mover so far today is Camillo Villegas, who
just doinked the flagstick with his approach on 18. He's four under
today on the strength of seven birdies (and counting) and has shot up
68 places into a tie for 6th. Nice round, but I'll be impressed if he
plays like this on the weekend. Like everybody else I was charmed by
Villegas when he first made the scene a few years ago but now it's time
to win a tournament or go away. Dude is the Anna Kournikova of the PGA
Tour: all sizzle. I'll be really curious to see if he can hold up with
the world watching. 4:05 a.m. PT First impression: Where's the bloody Gore-tex? It
looks far too mild for my tastes. If I want to watch birdies I'll tune
in to Milwaukee. The bad weather better arrive soon or I'm going to
have trouble staying awake.

4:01 a.m. PT Nothing like live golf under a full moon to bring
out the poet in a man. My heart is soaring, my fingers are
tingling....my hot chocolate is boiling. Excuse me fora moment....

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by Kevin Cunningham