Kendall takes lead, but big names lurk

He has 1-shot British Open edge after 2nd-round 66

Singh, Els, Mickelson in striking distance

July 17, 2004|By Thomas Bonk | Thomas Bonk,LOS ANGELES TIMES

TROON, Scotland - Until he shot a 66 to take the second-round lead of the British Open yesterday, here's what Skip Kendall was famous for: cutting off part of his finger while trying to slice a frozen bagel, playing 310 tournaments without winning, waiting tables at an Italian restaurant to make ends meet as a struggling mini-tour player, and having a pool party at his house break up early when a tornado touched down nearby.

At 39, he's not exactly the new kid on the block, and even if this is only his third stop at the British Open, who's counting? Kendall started playing the PGA Tour full time in 1993, but no knife, dinner order or twister could have prepared him for how he handled Royal Troon to take took a one-shot lead over Thomas Levet and a cadre of the game's biggest names, or for what danger may lie ahead in the suffocating pressure of a major championship.

Maybe it doesn't matter.

"This isn't my first rodeo," Kendall said.

Better saddle up anyway, because it promises to be a bumpy ride.

Kendall holed a bunker shot at the third hole and said he started feeling relaxed, but when he rolled in a 50-foot eagle putt at the 16th, he really got loose. Because of the way it made him feel, Kendall swiftly identified his key to success as avoiding as many distractions as possible.

"I think if I can stay relaxed ... I think I'll be fine," he said.

It's a nice philosophy, but the cold reality is that distractions are all they've got around here. If it's not jumbo jets from Prestwick Airport screaming overhead or the train clattering down the tracks beside the 11th tee or nasty bunkers or nastier wind, then there are a few other distractions, too.

They are called Vijay Singh, Ernie Els, Mike Weir, Retief Goosen and Phil Mickelson, who are close enough to Kendall to skip past him at any moment.

Kendall's 69-66 adds up to a 7-under total of 135, a step ahead of Levet and two shots ahead of Barry Lane and K.J. Choi. But after that, you find the bluebloods. Singh is three shots back after a 70 and tied for fifth with Els, Colin Montgomerie, Michael Campbell and Todd Hamilton.

Mickelson's 66 matched Kendall for the day's low round and moved him from a tie for 75th to a tie for 10th.

"I still have a lot of work to do trailing by four shots going into the weekend," Mickelson said. "But it's a lot better position than I was after last night."

Tiger Woods improved his position only slightly, from a tie for 26th to a tie for 18th, but that's what a round of par 71 does. In fairness, Woods had the toughest weather, an unruly crosswind that dominated the morning tee times but faded away in the afternoon.

Weir had a 68 and is tied with Goosen, Mickelson, Kenny Perry and Scott Verplank.

Els, who won the British Open at Muirfield two years ago, said he should have scored better, then veered out of his way to praise Kendall.

"The game Skip's got, he's perfect for links golf," Els said. "He hits the ball pretty low, he hits it straight, and he's a good putter."

But Els correctly pointed out that Kendall isn't exactly alone out there.

"You know, you'd think those top players should be right there, but let's wait and see. We've put ourselves in contention. Let's see what happens."

Woods made his way around the back nine by making par at every stop. That's not a bad way to play, especially when you're dealing with a wind blowing mostly left to right instead of straight in his face.

Woods was 2-under through six holes, but he made bogeys at the seventh and ninth. He said he was proud of his patience.

"I'm right there with a chance going into the weekend," he said. "That's right where I want to be."

Kendall wouldn't trade his position for a thing. This is his 13th major and his best result is a tie for 10th at the 1998 PGA at Sahalee. This year at the Bob Hope tournament, he nearly broke through for his first victory, but Mickelson beat him in a playoff, the third Kendall has lost.

He says he's close to winning, though, and he couldn't always say that when he was living in Orlando in 1989 and working a split shift at the Olive Garden, knocking golf balls in a field during his break while still wearing his waiter's bow tie.

"I really think it's just a matter of time," Kendall said. "Hopefully, this will be mine."

The Los Angeles Times is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

British Open

The second-round leader ...

Skip Kendall 69-66-135 -7 ...

and selected followers

Thomas Levet 66-70-136 -6 Vijay Singh 68-70-138 -4 Ernie Els 69-69-138 -4 Colin Montgomerie 69-69-138 -4 Retief Goosen 69-70-139 -3 Phil Mickelson 73-66-139 -3 Tiger Woods 70-71-141 -1 Paul Casey 66-77-143 +1

Complete scores, Page 7C

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