22 Jul 2023 | Professional golf |
Lee, Day top five at The Open
by Tony Webeck
Australian Min Woo Lee is ready to step into the role of crowd favourite as he and Jason Day surged into the top five at the halfway mark of The Open Championship at Royal Liverpool.
On a day in which Cameron Smith eagled the 18th hole to make the cut and New South Welshman Travis Smyth made a hole-in-one at the par-3 17th, it was Lee and Day who ensured the Australian flag was prominent on the leaderboard at day’s end.
Kiwi Ryan Fox produced one of the rounds of the day, a 4-under 67, to make the cut on the number, Adam Scott also scraping through despite bogeys at 16 and 18 in Round 2.
Six of the 10 Aussies in the field failed to make it beyond the 36-hole mark but Lee and Day are very much in the hunt to keep the Claret Jug in Australian hands.
At 3-under par for the championship and tied for fourth, Lee and Day will start Round 3 seven shots back of American Brian Harman (65) who has a five-stroke lead from Englishman Tommy Fleetwood (71) with Austrian Sepp Straka (67) third at 4-under.
Top 10 at the majors and THE PLAYERS Championship through 36 holes four times this year – the most of any player – Lee is again finding the fun in golf’s greatest tests.
The 24-year-old has quickly become a fan favourite on either side of the Atlantic and hopes to harness that energy as he seeks a breakthrough major win.
“The last six months have been amazing. Definitely made me play a bit better. Everywhere there’s a crowd, I have been playing pretty good,” said Lee, who fought back from two early bogeys to shoot 3-under 68 on Friday.
“After every shot someone is cheering me on and trying to get me going after I make a bogey or so, so it definitely helps.
“It’s been amazing.”
A former world No.1 and the 2015 US PGA champion, Day is getting accustomed to once again playing in front of enormous galleries.
In a stellar season he secured his first win in five years at the AT&T Byron Nelson but is yet to transfer that form to the majors. It is something he is hoping to rectify at Hoylake.
“Even though I’ve played great for the most part of the year, I haven’t played well in the majors, and it’s been a little frustrating for me,” admitted Day, who had three birdies in his first five holes in his round of 67.
“If I can get one here this week, that will definitely change it.
“It is The Open Championship, so if we do get some pretty average weather, it’ll bring a lot of guys back in or at least give them a chance at shooting up the leaderboard pretty quick on tomorrow’s round and then obviously Sunday, as well.”
Smith will be one of those players with an eye to a Saturday surge after squeezing inside the cut-line at the last possible moment.
Four-over playing the par-5 18th, Smith found the fairway with his tee shot and followed it up with a sublime 6-iron from 215 metres to inside two feet. The tap-in eagle put him in a tie for 39th and 12 strokes off the lead.
“It was good to end like that for sure,” said the 2022 champion.
“It’s been a frustrating couple of days. I know the weather looks not so good, so hopefully the weekend I can grind it out and get back under par and just kind of see what happens.
“Being 12 back with two rounds to go is a big ask, but you never know.”
Travis Smyth won’t be playing the weekend but he left the Royal Liverpool crowds with one of the highlights of the week, and a moment to treasure forever.
At 10-over-par with two holes to play, making the cut was out of question when Smyth took 9-iron at the short 17th which is quickly earning a reputation as a hole where anything can happen.
In Round 1, Smyth was a victim of ‘Little Eye’, making a double-bogey five, one shot less than fellow Australian Lucas Herbert who had come to the 17th as joint Open leader.
But on Friday, Smyth’s “chippy” tee shot drew in with the wind towards the pin and took two bounces before disappearing for a hole-in-one – the first in Open history at Royal Liverpool’s newest addition and the third of his professional career.
“It was amazing, a little bittersweet actually,” Smyth said. “I had a shocker the day before, made double-bogey and I was just really happy I hit a good shot because I was just so disappointed from the day before.
“It was a huge surprise when it went in the hole. It was just the perfect distance, the wind and the club and it all came together. It was a moment I’ll never forget.
“About halfway through the flight I thought, This is going to be good. It looked amazing.”
Round 2 scores 1 Brian Harman 67-65—132 T4 Min Woo Lee 71-68—139 T4 Jason Day 72-67—139 T39 Cameron Smith 72-72—144 T61 Ryan Fox (NZ) 78-67—145 T61 Adam Scott 72-73—145 MC Lucas Herbert 71-76—147 MC Travis Smyth 78-72—150 MC Daniel Hillier (NZ) 78-73—151 MC Haydn Barron 74-77—151 MC David Micheluzzi 77-75—152 MC Connor McKinney 76-77—153 MC Harrison Crowe (a) 76-80—156
Round 3 tee times AEST 6.05pm Adam Scott, Scottie Scheffler 6.45pm Victor Perez, Ryan Fox (NZ) 7.30pm Cameron Smith, Matt Fitzpatrick 12.10am Jason Day, Shubhankar Sharma 12.20am Min Woo Lee, Sepp Straka
Join our newsletter
Get weekly updates on news, golf tips and access to partner promotions.