Aiken’s bunker adventures don’t stop him contending in Open

Two waterlogged bunkers made Thomas Aiken’s life difficult on Friday in the second round of the Open Championship, but he managed to keep things together and finished up at four-under-par, six behind leader Brandt Snedeker.

Aiken carded a one-under-par 69 to finish on four-under for the tournament, with Adam Scott in second, one behind Snedeker’s halfway record of 10-under. Tiger Woods was third at six-under.

Aiken dropped just one shot from those pesky bunkers, on the 17th as he got an atrocious lie on one of the 205 sand traps around Royal Lytham and St Annes – this one to the right of the green. With heavy rains overnight and a high water table, his ball had a ridge of mud behind it from a previous raking.

There was no simple way out as he hit his escape attempt to 20 feet, and barely missed out on the resulting par attempt.

And while he was able to make up for the drop by making birdie on 18, but that bogey on 17 – and the one he made on 14 – as did playing partner Thorbjorn Olesen of Denmark – put the brakes on a round that would have threatened the sole possession of second that Tiger Woods took at halfway.

Aiken made three birdies before that dropped shot, and looked as if he could be putting together one of the rounds of the day – as well as heading towards eclipsing his 2009 performance when he shared eighth behind Stewart Cink’s heart-rending defeat of Tom Watson in a playoff at Turnberry.

Then came the bunkers: He salvaged par after his approach to 15 ended up underwater in a greenside bunker, and a free drop from that casual water saw him save par efficiently. But he was not to be so fortunate on 17.

The birdie on 18 was a bit of retributive justice for Aiken, who encountered a situation many others on the day did, and should never have if there were such a thing as absolute equity in golf.

That closing birdie was matched by one from Ernie Els, with whom Aiken will play in the second round.

The Big Easy went round in even-par 70 to remain at three-under for the tournament, and if he starts making some of the simple putts he missed in his round, he will be a formidable force as the championship moves to its climax.

Aiken and Els were two of seven South Africans – as well as Sunshine Tour regular Adilson Da Silva of Brazil – who made the cut which fell at three-under, and let sentimental favourite Tom Watson in, as well as world number three Lee Westwood.

The other South Africans were Retief Goosen, Louis Oosthuizen, Garth Mulroy, Richard Sterne and Branden Grace.

Of those, Oosthuizen had the best round, overcoming a bogey on his opening hole with three birdies for a two-under 68 as he moved to even-par for the tournament together with Goosen and Mulroy. Mulroy had a great round going until a triple-bogey seven on the 17th derailed him.

Sterne had four consecutive bogeys to make his homeward nine a harrowing experience, and carded a second-round 73 to be two-over for the tournament together with Grace, who carded a 69.

Da Silva was one of a host of players on three-under who had to wait almost until the end of the day before the cut moved definitively to three-over.

Charl Schwartzel just missed out at four-over after a second round which didn’t include a single birdie to counteract three bogeys and a double.

Jbe’ Kruger also had a bad round with his six-over including three double bogeys, while George Coetzee, Andrew Georgiou, Trevor Immelman, Tim Clark and Grant Veenstra made up the balance of the South African contingent who will miss playing on the weekend.

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