Saturday, July 17, 2004
Unheralded American leads diverse Open field
By SAM WEINMAN
The (Westchester, N.Y.) Journal News
TROON, Scotland - The international flags that line the 18th grandstands can be spotted from every direction here. Players use them to gauge the wind. Spectators use them to navigate their way back to the clubhouse. On a clear afternoon like Friday's they cut a striking figure against a blue sky. Yet it takes a British Open like this one to remind us why they're really there.
Because here we are halfway through play at Royal Troon and there isn't a corner of the globe that won't have an investment in the events of the next two rounds.
Skip Kendall of the United States putts to make an eagle on the 16th.
An American is in the lead. A Frenchman, an Englishman, and a Korean are right behind. Of the first nine places on the leaderboard, in fact, eight different nations and five different continents are represented, which only underscores a greater point: Every major is a test for world-class players. But it is the Open where that holds especially true.
If the Scottish crowd here pines for one of its own to claim the claret jug, the golf course itself doesn't discriminate along national lines, nor does it care how exactly you got here.
And that might explain the presence of a relatively obscure 39-year old named Skip Kendall atop the Open leaderboard.
Fourteen years and 310 starts into his PGA Tour career, the Wisconsin native holds the distinction of winning the most money on tour without a win. Only twice before this week had he even played in an Open. And yet at 7-under par after a stellar round of 66, it is Kendall who leads a host of pursuers that includes some of the top players in the game.
France's Thomas Levet is one shot back after a 70, England's Barry Lane and Korea's K.J. Choi are two shots back, while Vijay Singh, Ernie Els and Troon's own Colin Montgomerie highlight a group of five players at 4-under.
Within reach as well is Phil Mickelson at 3-under par after Friday's 66, and Tiger Woods at 1-under.
It is an imposing group, and for an Open, typically diverse. Even with seven of the top 10 Opens going to Americans, it is this event that has long been recognized as golf's international championship, a tournament that often opens players' eyes to the depth of talent around the globe.
Maybe that's not apparent on a weekly basis. But it is once you return to a venue like Troon, where even relatively tame conditions have forced players to rely far more on creativity than sheer power.
Enter Kendall, at 5-foot-8, 150 pounds, possibly the smallest player in the field, but one who has quickly realized his game is well-suited for links-style courses. It started at last month's U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills, where he finished tied for 17th, but has been taken to a greater extreme here.
"I'm maybe getting used to using my imagination a little bit more and what you can do on certain shots, what you can't do, too," Kendall said. "Everyone has always told me that a good shot is really rewarded. And I'm finding out that that's true."
Never was that more apparent than on the par-5 16th, when Kendall reached the green in two with a 3-wood to leave himself 50 feet from the hole. When he walked to that green, Kendall had been tied with Levet. By the time he left, after rolling in the epic eagle putt, he was alone in front. Was this a sign he was ready to break through? Kendall just shrugged his shoulders, but he also maintains his first career win is only a matter of time.
"I really feel like I can win out on the PGA Tour, as well as anyplace else," Kendall said. "Hopefully this will be mine. I think if I can stay relaxed and not get caught up in what we're really doing and just play golf, I'll be fine."
Either way, Kendall needed only to take in his surroundings to see he is a healthy distance removed from the lean years prior to joining the tour. In his mid-20s and struggling to make a living as a golfer, Kendall took a job as a waiter at an Olive Garden near Orlando, Fla. to help pay the bills. Sometimes he'd work just the dinner shift. Others he'd work lunch as well. With no other chance to practice, he'd spend the time in between hitting balls in a nearby field.
"With my bow tie on. I had to keep it on because it was too hard to put back on," Kendall said. "Can you imagine these people driving by on the street looking at me? Black pants, white button-down shirt with a bow tie, hitting balls."
It was a markedly different scene as he holed out on 18 Friday. On both sides were the massive grandstands lining the hole. Off in the corner was his mother, Shirley, who Kendall flew over as part of her 80th birthday present.
Of course, either knew that part of the present was seeing Skip lead the Open. That's not something you expect when you've never won before. Then again, this is the Open, where the predictable is thrown out the window. Maybe the flags atop the grandstands are something you can count on. Everything else remains up in the air.
At Royal Troon Golf Club
Purse: $7.44 million
Yardage: 7,175; Par: 71
|Skip Kendall, United States||69-66-135|
|Thomas Levet, France||66-70-136|
|Barry Lane, England||69-68-137|
|K.J. Choi, South Korea||68-69-137|
|M.Campbell, New Zealand||67-71-138|
|Vijay Singh, Fiji||68-70-138|
|Todd Hamilton, United States||71-67-138|
|Ernie Els, South Africa||69-69-138|
|Colin Montgomerie, Scotland||69-69-138|
|Mike Weir, Canada||71-68-139|
|Kenny Perry, United States||69-70-139|
|Retief Goosen, South Africa||69-70-139|
|Phil Mickelson, United States||73-66-139|
|Scott Verplank, United States||69-70-139|
|Rodney Pampling, Australia||72-68-140|
|Kim Felton, Australia||73-67-140|
|Gary Emerson, England||70-71-141|
|Darren Clarke, Northern Ireland||69-72-141|
|Adam Scott, Australia||73-68-141|
|Tiger Woods, United States||70-71-141|
|Gary Evans, England||68-73-141|
|Davis Love III, United States||72-69-141|
|Stuart Appleby, Australia||71-70-141|
|David Toms, United States||71-71-142|
|Marten Olander, Sweden||68-74-142|
|Steve Lowery, United States||69-73-142|
|Alastair Forsyth, Scotland||68-74-142|
|Brad Faxon, United States||74-68-142|
|Rich Beem, United States||69-73-142|
|Shaun Micheel, United States||70-72-142|
|Nick Price, Zimbabwe||71-71-142|
|Chris DiMarco, United States||71-71-142|
|Justin Leonard, United States||70-72-142|
|Kenneth Ferrie, England||68-74-142|
|Joakim Haeggman, Sweden||69-73-142|
|Paul Bradshaw, England||75-67-142|
|Ian Poulter, England||71-72-143|
|Rory Sabbatini, South Africa||71-72-143|
|a-Stuart Wilson, Scotland||68-75-143|
|Lee Westwood, England||72-71-143|
|Mark Foster, England||71-72-143|
|T.van der Walt, South Africa||70-73-143|
|Hunter Mahan, United States||74-69-143|
|Sandy Lyle, Scotland||70-73-143|
|Andrew Oldcorn, Scotland||73-70-143|
|Shigeki Maruyama, Japan||71-72-143|
|Paul Casey, England||66-77-143|
|Takashi Kamiyama, Japan||70-73-143|
|T.Immelman, South Africa||69-74-143|
|Stewart Cink, United States||72-71-143|
|Martin Erlandsson, Sweden||73-70-143|
|Bo Van Pelt, United States||72-71-143|
|Tetsuji Hiratsuka, Japan||70-74-144|
|Keiichiro Fukabori, Japan||73-71-144|
|Raphael Jacquelin, France||72-72-144|
|Mathias Gronberg, Sweden||70-74-144|
|Bob Tway, United States||76-68-144|
|Christian Cevaer, France||70-74-144|
|Jerry Kelly, United States||75-70-145|
|Mark O'Meara, United States||71-74-145|
|Steve Flesch, United States||75-70-145|
|Miguel Angel Jimenez, Spain||74-71-145|
|M.Calcavecchia, United States||72-73-145|
|Paul McGinley, Ireland||69-76-145|
|Carl Pettersson, Sweden||68-77-145|
|James Kingston, South Africa||73-72-145|
|Charles Howell, United States||75-70-145|
|Paul Broadhurst, England||71-74-145|
|Ignacio Garrido, Spain||71-74-145|
|Bob Estes, United States||73-72-145|
|Jyoti Randhawa, India||73-72-145|
|Paul Wesselingh, England||73-72-145|
|Sean Whiffin, England||73-72-145|
Bullpen lets another 'W' get away
Photos of Friday's game
Casey feeling good at plate after stint on disabled list
Pena coming into his own
Wily Mo Pena desktop wallpaper
MORE BASEBALL HEADLINES
SABR cuts through baseball's statistics
Johnson's agent denies trade rumors
MRI shows no damage to Prior's elbow
Thomas out eight weeks with broken foot
Delgado won't waive no-trade clause
NL: Brewers rally to defeat Cubs
AL: Tigers match win total from last year
Antitrust lawsuit against Bengals could reverberate across NFL
George meeting with agent, mulling Titans' offer
Ohio Am: Youngest champ in event's history
Unheralded American leads diverse Open field
Curtis done in early; Flesch just makes cut
Defending champion misses cut
Andrews two shots off Giant Eagle lead
British Open photo gallery, course map
Wolf-Kronauge repeat; Molonys get revenge
Martin trade the obstacle in Nets' quest to contend
James says he supports Boozer
Hurdler pulls out with injury
Jones leaps back into Olympics - or not
2004 Summer Olympics schedule
Olympics guide, multimedia
TOUR DE FRANCE
Armstrong climbs toward sixth Tour title
Tour De France photos, maps, multimedia
MORE SPORTS HEADLINES
Sports this weekend on TV, radio