CARMEL, Ind. (AP) — Tim Jackson came to the U.S. Senior Open with one goal: Making the cut.
It’s time for the 50-year-old amateur to devise a more realistic objective for the weekend, such as staying ahead of Greg Norman and the rest of the field.
For the second straight day, Jackson outdid his big-name rivals at Crooked Stick. He followed his first-round 66, the lowest score by an amateur in tourney history, with a 5-under 67 on Friday that would have broken the previous record (68), too. Jackson finished at 11 under and his two-day total of 133 matched the tournament’s lowest 36-hole score, set by Dave Stockton and Simon Hobday in the 1990s.
The real estate developer from Tennessee, a two-time U.S. Mid-Amateur champion, led Joey Sindelar (68) by one shot, while Norman was three strokes back after a 70.
Even Jackson can’t believe it.
“You don’t expect to come into this tournament with these guys and say, you know, I want to go win the tournament,” he said. “I’ve got guys at home saying, ‘If you played your game, you can win.’ I’m thinking ‘Yeah, right. I can beat Greg Norman.”‘
Yes, Jackson is playing his game – and he is winning.
Jackson has been the steadiest player on the 7,316-yard par-72 course. He’s produced 12 birdies, including a streak of four straight Thursday and three straight Friday. He consistently outdrove playing partners Jeff Klein and John Harris, hit greens in regulation and putted well.
No wonder he has had only one bogey.
Others have not been so fortunate.
Norman stumbled early in the round, but recovered nicely, ending with two straight birdies to finish at 8 under.
“It was just an awkward day,” Norman said. “All in all, I was very happy. I gave myself a good chance going into the weekend.”
Jackson has been almost flawless but not perfect. He hit a tee shot into a fairway bunker on No. 2 and another at 16, the second leading to a bogey. He also slid three putts, all birdie chances, past the lip of the cup.
But Jackson has not faltered. Klein was so impressed with Jackson’s confidence that between the second and third holes, he pulled 15-year-old caddie Austin Jackson aside to say: “I think he’s convinced he’s going to make every putt.”
Tim Jackson’s son smiled, nodded and then watched his father reel off birdies at Nos. 11, 12, 13, 15 and 18 – the last setting off a roar from the crowd that sent autograph-seekers scrambling into position for a player they didn’t even know 24 hours earlier.
Players are surprised, too.
“I don’t know him, I don’t think. Our minds aren’t what they used to be, but I’m not putting a face to the name,” Sindelar said. “But obviously he can play golf.”
Sindelar, one of four players tied for the first-round lead, started on the back nine and followed his course-record 66 with the 68.
A birdie on the par-3 sixth gave Sindelar a share of the lead, but he dropped a stroke on the next hole and finished the day by pulling a 5-foot birdie putt to the left. That that would have tied Jackson for the lead.
Funk matched Jackson’s score of (67) and finished at 9 under. Funk was the leader after a birdie on the 600-yard, par-5 fifth to go to 8-under. Jackson then responded with his birdie streak.
Dan Forsman, one of the first-round leaders, eagled No. 9 and birdied his final hole to go to 7-under. He’s fifth.
But everyone’s chasing Jackson, who considered joining the senior tour last year before tearing up the application and declaring “it wasn’t for me.”
Apparently, it was.
Now, with his son carrying his bag, his wife following in the gallery and a performance that is beginning to look a lot like the one his Memphis-area acquaintance, John Daly, delivered at the 1991 PGA Championship here, Jackson has found a home atop the leaderboard.
“I know he’s capable of winning this golf tournament,” Austin Jackson said. “I think he knows he’s capable of winning this tournament, too. He just doesn’t want to get into all of that yet.”
Robin Freeman, who shot a 70 Thursday, made up three strokes by the turn and finished with a 68 to join Tom Lehman and Bruce Vaughan at 6 under.
Senior British Open champion Loren Roberts, former PGA Championship winner Bob Tway and 2007 Senior Open champ Brad Bryant were in a group at 5 under. Tom Watson and defending champion Eduardo Romero were 1 under.