Van Sickle: Blogging round 2

Van Sickle Gary Van Sickle, senior writer for Sports Illustrated, blogged the late rounds today. Alan Shipnuck was on the early shift.

2:59: David Duval is finishing up at the 18th and the announcers can't stop talking about what a long seven years it's been since Duval last won any tournament, which happened to be the Open. Seven years. Funny, that's exactly how long the last four hours of watching TNT has felt. Open golf is more interesting than the way it was presented here, a disjointed collection of shots, interviews and way too much talking-head time. No matter what ABC does on the weekend, it's going to feel like the World Series after two days of TNT. Not a tough act to follow. So long, fellow bloggers. Why are you still here? Tell your boss I said you were excused from work. I'll meet you at the Hooters around the corner. I'm signing off. I'll be back tomorrow night after the third round, if I feel like it, to tell you who's going to win on Sunday and why.

2:49: Here's what I predict happens in the Lexus commercial with the four golfers and the race, the one where I'm never going to go to the website to watch their stupid video no matter how many times per hour Lexus insists on running it during the Open. Chi Chi drives his care to a geriatric therapy center. Annika takes hers on the highway and sets it on cruise control for 54. Charles Howell never eats the bagel. And Ray Floyd's driver crashes his car into a Stargate to head off an alien invasion of Replicators. Sorry to ruin the video for you. Time to finish up this Open.

2:38: I have no idea why Keith is surprised or grossed out by Jim Huber sucking up to Phil, as Keith called it, in the post-round interview. Jim Huber is a very sunny, positive guy. If you've been watching his post-round interviews, he gives everybody the same treatment. If you want hardball questions, stick with Chris Mathews. You're not going get that on this golf telecast. The funniest moment was Huber praising Phil for his comeback 68 and telling him he was now in really good shape. Even Phil couldn't accept that suck-up comment. "I wouldn't say really good shape," Phil said, and then he went on to explain that at least he has a chance to keep fighting.

2:35: Thanks to Noel for the item that Peter Alliss got his Goldfinger quote from a viewer e-mail. That's the kind of help I could use. At least a quote from Yoda: "Do... or do not. There is no try." Something.

2:32: Somebody call the hotline. Troy is going through Tiger withdrawals. Never mind that Putt-Putt should be capitized because it's a brand name, like Jell-O or Kleenex. How does Tiger not being here make the Open like Putt-Putt? Because you don't care about anything golf except Tiger? That's my guess. You like Tiger, you don't like golf. That's OK. It's a three-dimensional sport displayed poorly in one dimension on TV.   And while it may be a horrible telecast (see my previous hundred TNT rants), it's not a horrible tournament.

2:25: It's funny how TNT made a fuss over Phil Mickelson making the cut and still having a chance, sort of, in a post-round interview when we didn't see much of his finish. Phil had good birdie chances at 15, 16 adn 17 that he missed but finally got one at 18 to shoot 68. After his opening 79, he's at seven over par and eight shots off the lead. He can still win from there but he needs a 65 like Villegas shot today (how's that, Enrique?). It is very possible. I'm not calling my on-line bookie in the Seychelles to get a bet down on Phil but eight shots in two rounds is within reason.

2:13 You're right about too much IBF, Doug, and too much Terry Gannon. But Peter Alliss is a highly educated man who has traveled the world and forgotten more than most of us will know. There's not enough room in the broadcast booth for "helpers," as you suggest. The man is smart, just not as young and sharp as he used to be. He probably thinks the Goldfinger was a contemporary reference. But it was still a good one. Jealousy doesn't become you, Doug.

2:06: I can't believe you haven't skipped out early from work yet on this Friday afternoon. Here's the leaderboard right now, not that it's terribly important with 36 holes to go. But for FYI purposes: -1 Choi; even Norman; +1 Villegas, Duval (15); six players at +2, including Furyk, Harrington, Mediate.

1:58: Whoever whined about Peter Alliss earlier, boo on you. He gets the anecdote of the date award, now that Choi just holed a birdie putt to take the outright lead. Alliss recalled the scene from Goldfinger in which Odd Job, the guy with the lethal hat, has a run-in with James (007) Bond and Goldfinger apologizes for Odd Job's lack of savvy. "Please excuse Odd Job, Mr. Bond," Alliss quoted Goldfinger, "but golf is not the national sport in Korea." A great forgotten line that Choi and half of the LPGA have now proven wrong. The name is Choi, K.J. Choi. One martini, shaken, not stirred.

1:55: It looks like Phil has a good chance to make the cut, unless he butchers the 18th (nah, he'd never mess up the last hole--what am I thinking?). He just hit a pitch into the 17th green that might've been a good shot until it spun back 12 feet. This may be his problem. Phil plays loft-and-spin golf when he needs to play bump-and-run on the link. I don't mean that shot specifically but in links golf, you just don't see shots zipping back like on a yo-yo string.

1:50: Hey, Read Me, it hurts me that you implied no longer thinks my blog is important. Clearly, it never was important. We like to keep things on an even keel here. Which banner couldn't you find? Press Tent? Did your dog steal your bifocals and accidentally flush them down the toilet when the alligator chased him into your bathroom again?

1:41: Wake-up call. K.J. Choi just birdied to tie Norman for the lead. The afternoon is starting to drag a bit. Time to crack open another can of Squirt and refocus.

1:33: Kudos to TNT for rediscovering Phil and Ernie, as I suggested an hour ago. Talk among yourselves, the rest of you, while Kevin and I go blogillistic (a new word). Let's see, when Tiger is in the field, Phil and Ernie and Vijay usually lay down. Tiger isn't in the field this week and what happens? Phil and Ernie and Vijay are down and almost, but not quite, out. I guess it doesn't matter. Still, there has to be a reason that the only players who shoot it out with El Tigre are the likes of May, Mediate, DiMarco and Mayfair and not the other big guns in the game. I think the older players have seen enough of Tiger and know that they aren't going to beat him. The Roccos and Bob Mays have nothing to lose. Maybe this next generation of Anthony Kim and Ian Poulter and whoever, they seem to have so much self-confidence that they're not scared of Tiger yet, even though perhaps they should be.

1:09: Kevin says he's taking young Raymundo versus Ernie Els, Vijay Singh or even Phil. A solid choice but my question is, why is The Stare taking the limo treatment and sitting in the back seat while someone else drives in that stupid Lexus race commercial? Shouldn't Raymundo, with eyes, flaming, be behind the wheel and running the other guys--and gal--off the road? Still, I have to agree. Go way, way back to Raymond in his prime and he had a total game and the attitude to go with it. Vijay never had the putting game, Phil didn't have the course management or the swing mechanics and Ernie, for whatever reason, hasn't closed as well as he could have.
David questions my calling Norman a superstar. By that, I meant a superstar in the eyes of the public. He was the No. 1 player in the game, interest-wise, for more than a decade and no one was a close second, not even Fred Couples. Which is why Norman's sudden return is so newsworthy. Obviously, Norman won fewer majors than Phil and even Vijay. You can only view the Shark's career as a glass left unfilled.

12:57: Give Brian today's Kreskin Award. Duval just stiffed a shot for another birdie to get to one over par, one off the lead. Maybe Norman isn't going to be the big story of today's round. At least, that's the view from my kitchen in steamy, sultry suburban Pittsburgh.

12:41: Time out for fan mail. Brian wonders if David Duval is going to do a Hal Sutton turnaround? It's too early to call, Brian. I remember standing on a practice green during David's prime--I forget where--and watched him make six out of eight 30-footers like it was nothing. He could always putt, which is one reason I've never written him off. A guy who can hole putts can make a living. In David's case, it was a matter of getting healthy and getting some desire back. So far, so good. Besides, he'd be a feel-good story for all of us pudgy American men.
Tom asked about the cut. TNT has talked about it, finally, but it looks like eight over par will likely be the number. That means Phil Mickelson, who is still at nine over and even par for the day (info that you're not getting on TNT, by the way), is on the outside looking in.
Enrique is irate that Camillo Villegas isn't getting more pub for his 65. I'm sure he'll get plenty of pub in the British papers tomorrow but let's face it, nobody is going to get more headlines than Greg Norman at 53, the last superstar between the Tom Watson and Tiger Woods eras. Besides, if CV wants more pub, he should start being a little more cooperative with the media and quit being such a stiff. You get better treatment from the media if you don't act like a jerk.

12:33: While TNT was fooling around with an update and a soft feature on Sergio Garcia, K.J. Choi has pulled to within one shot of the lead. Which Terry Gannon and Ian Baker-Finch don't seem to realize. We've got Choi one back and Ian Poulter two back--shouldn't we be watching their every shot? Or, at least, let us know if Phil Mickelson and Ernie Els are making up any ground--seriously, what are they doing? Have we seen four golf shots by anyone in the last 20 minutes? Lexus is apparently keeping me from watching the Open.

12:18: As soon as the Lexus At the Turn logo came up, I realized it was time for a break. So I surfed to to get the update on the Southern Amateur, currently being contested at Lake Nona in Orlando. The key stat there was that Mike Van Sickle is three under for the day, six under for the tournament, and tied for 11th in the second round. Mike is my son, he plays golf at Marquette University. Due to storms yesterday, he got only four holes of his second round in. He's finishing it today. It's nice that the Southern Am has semi-live scoring (player scores are updated after every three holes), so I can follow along when TNT takes a break from covering the Open. Between the At the Turn segment and those inane Lexus commercials with Annika, Charles Howell, Ray Floyd and Chi Chi Rodriguez (yes, he's still alive), I'm definitely not buying a Lexus. What is supposed to be interesting about those four golfers racing around in courtesy cars? Unless the payoff is a four-car pileup with flames, featuring stunt doubles, count me out.

11:58: You're right on with your comment, Brian. I almost feel bad picking on TNT. It's like shooting ducks in a handbag. But really, they're just asking for it. I have the utmost respect for Peter Alliss, who is a classic, but he has lost a little bit off his fastball. He erred a few minutes ago when he talked about Norman having the lead after all four majors on Saturdays a few years ago (it was 1986, we dubbed it the Saturday Slam) and said Norman didn't win any of them. Actually, Norman did win the British Open that year. Nicklaus won the Masters, Ray Floyd won the U.S. Open and Bob Tway beat the Shark at the PGA with that bunker shot. Alliss is nonetheless one of the highlights of this telecast. Azinger was yesterday. And Judy Rankin, if they'd ever let her say anything, would be, too.

11:52: It's interesting watching Tom Watson trying to gut it out to make the cut. He's got a bad hip, he's clearly favoring it and as Judy Rankin smartly pointed out, he's not crouching down to line up putts line he normally would. This in contrast to another former Open champ, Sandy Lyle, who packed it in during the first round because his fingers were cold and his game was out of sorts. Nobody has more pride than Watson. He was the oldest second-round leader in 1994 when he was 44. It looks like Greg Norman is likely  to break that mark. Norman is 53 and at last check of the board, nobody still on the course was closer than two shots behind.

11:42: Congrats to TNT for making me laugh out loud. After a commercial break, we viewers were treated to a serenade of brass with shots of a church, a market, two red British phone booths and the Union Jack flapping in the breeze. It couldn't have been a bigger cliche unless they'd included a shot of Sherlock Holmes playing poker with the Beatles and Queen Elizabeth. I wonder what they'd do for a scene-setting shot of a U.S. Open--two fat guys throwing down Big Macs at a McDonalds, a freeway traffic jam, shoppers fighting over sale items at Wal-Mart, Desert Storm highlights and an American flag?

11:31: Is it just me or do those squiggly lines TNT is using as graphics to show the breaks on the greens look like ancient Mayan markings? I'm not sure if the one in the middle of the green meant double break or, Attention all aliens--land here.

11:20: Thanks to Shipwreck for taking the early shift, which allowed me to get in a quick nine at my home course. So, after I hit 3-wood into the first fairway... On the third hole with my second ball... Actually, all I'm going to tell you is I had only 11 putts. The key to good putting stats is missing more greens.
I have to say it's a bit disappointing to not see the Birkdale flags madly whipping like a pennant--oh, sorry, I meant flag--over Wrigley Field. Yesterday morning's wind and rain and subsequent whining was a delight. Things look a little too tame at Birkdale. Let's get some drama. Let's get some adversity.

11:10 a.m. ET What, I take a break and let Shipwreck take over and he lets Greg Norman take the lead? I guess you can't trust anybody.

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by Kevin Cunningham