TURNBERRY, Scotland (AP) — 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.
Great story, right?
But it barely got noticed Friday.
Marino’s second straight round in the 60s – and this one was really impressive the way the wind was whipping around Turnberry – 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 ever 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 68 that left him tied with Watson at 5-under 135. “But it can be an advantage to not have experience.”
Someone pointed to Ben Curtis, who won the Open on his first attempt at Royal St. George’s in 2003.
“I haven’t really experienced any nightmares over here yet, knock on wood,” Marino said. “But you know, watching it on TV my whole life, I’ve seen some crazy things go on. And I’ve got it in my head that some crazy things might happen to me, both good and bad.”
There was a lot of good in the second round, as 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,” Marino said. “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.”
And let’s give a few props to his father for sending along that passport. Without it, Marino wouldn’t be here.
“I had to fly my dad down to Florida so he could get my passport and FedEx it to me,” he said. “I wasn’t even expecting to play in this tournament.”
When Marino thought he might get into the Open, his father dashed from Virginia to Florida (his son’s home), sent the passport to his son playing in the John Deere Classic in Illinois, then flew back home – all in the same day. When Shingo Katayama withdrew from the Open last weekend because of an injury, Marino hopped on a charter flight to claim the spot.
Though he had never played on a true links course, Marino felt his game was suited to a style of golf that requires imagination and low ball flight.
“I would consider myself a feel player,” he said. “I kind of see shots before I hit them. I don’t really hit the same shot every time. Over here, you kind of have to be that way a little bit and hit some low shots and some high shots and bounce them in there and use the slopes.”
Marino, a former standout at the University of Virginia, where he was teammates with fellow PGA Tour player James Driscoll, has certainly paid his dues. He worked his way up through the mini-tours – once shooting a 59 – and claimed a spot on the Nationwide circuit through Monday qualifying and strong finishes. Finally, five years after leaving Virginia, he earned his PGA Tour card at Q-school.
Marino earned more than $1 million as a rookie, had a runner-up finish his sophomore year and nearly won in May at Colonial, losing to Steve Stricker in a playoff.
“He’s a great kid and had a ton of talent,” said Mark Calcavecchia, who was just one stroke behind the co-leaders heading into the weekend. “He’s really kind of figured it out in the last couple of years. He hits it far, really doesn’t have any weaknesses in the game that I’ve seen the few times that I’ve played with him. It’s great to see him playing well. It’s just a matter of time before he wins.
“He could win this tournament. There’s a whole bunch of people that could. But he’s going to win soon, and it may even be this week.”