Sandy Lyle’s Open career ended with a brilliant birdie on the 18th which left the former champion on cloud nine.
A second round of 76 at Carnoustie meant Lyle missed the halfway cut for the ninth time in his last 10 appearances, but the 60-year-old signed off in style by holing from 25 feet on the last.
“That’s a great way to finish,” said 1985 champion Lyle, who pulled a handkerchief out of his pocket and waved it to the crowd before pretending to dab away a tear.
“I was on cloud nine walking down the 18th.
“It was not an easy second shot from the right-hand side of the fairway. There’s not much to land the ball on.
Coming in from the right-hand side like I was, it was quite a challenge. But to make birdie was extra special.
“I managed to stay away from crying, but definitely a lump in the throat, yeah. Definitely.”
Past champions can play in the Open until they are 60 and Lyle could still qualify for a return by winning next week’s Senior Open at St Andrews, but the likelihood of this being his last appearance meant he was given the honour of hitting the opening shot on Thursday.
“In 40-odd plus years I’ve played in the tournament, to have the pleasure of doing the opening tee shot was quite special to me,” Lyle, who made his Open debut in 1974, said. “It shows that they care and they appreciate what I’ve done over the years.
“There’s always a chance I could play my way back into the tournament. I will try. I won’t totally, totally give up. But it seems like it’s the last Open for me as far as turning up. I’ll have to work to get back in again.
“I have no regrets. I’ve had a good run. If qualifying is up here in Scotland and I’m living up here, I might just give it a run in the next few years. That would be it.”
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Zach Johnson will gladly accept not being the popular choice to win a second Open Championship as he seeks to make golfing history.
No player has ever won majors at all three famed venues of Augusta, St Andrews and Carnoustie, but Johnson can do so this weekend after a second round of 67 put him firmly in contention on six under par.
England’s Tommy Fleetwood is just a shot behind Johnson and Rory McIlroy another stroke adrift, but while they will command much of the spotlight and spectator support, Johnson will take it all in his stride.
“I don’t relish it. I’m just so wholeheartedly used to it,” Johnson said of his relatively low popularity among fans. “Maybe I’m just overly conservative and boring and that’s perfectly fine. I just like to compete. It doesn’t matter where it is, what it is. Just give me an opportunity.”
Johnson won the Masters in 2007 and the Open at St Andrews in 2015, beating Louis Oosthuizen and Marc Leishman in a four-hole play-off.
And the 42-year-old makes no secret of what it would mean to get his name on the Claret Jug for a second time after embracing the challenge of links golf, despite missing the cut in his first three Open appearances.
Zach Johnson is the clubhouse leader. Birdie on 18 sees him finish with a 67 and -6 at the halfway stage.
— The Open (@TheOpen) July 20, 2018
“I really haven’t given it a whole lot of thought because I’m so about right now,” Johnson added. “But the reverence I have for this championship and specifically that trophy, that Claret Jug… I’m not suggesting that someone doesn’t have a higher reverence for it, but I’d argue with them.
“I just greatly appreciate it. I greatly appreciate how the game was formed over here, how this championship came into fruition back in 1860. Everything about it I’ve embraced and I love.
“I’m not going to sit here and say, man, I just love playing in the wind and rain because I don’t, but I can do it, you know. I may not play well, but I’m going to go out and fight.”
For the third year in succession, Johnson is sharing accommodation for the Open with a number of friends and fellow competitors, first-round leader Kevin Kisner this year joining Johnson, as well as defending champion Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Jimmy Walker, Jason Dufner and Rickie Fowler in domestic bliss.
And although he would be happy to foot the bill, this time there will be no repeat of the Open winner paying for time on a private jet service to take the housemates back across the Atlantic.
“We made an agreement that, if you win, you get the jet and you buy it so we go home,” Johnson revealed. “I think it (the cost) varies based on how many guys. My point is I didn’t pay last year. Somebody else did.
“I’d be happy to fork that over. This year a bunch of guys are going elsewhere so it’s not going to come to fruition. It’s not going to happen, but that’s fine.”
A month after winning almost a million pounds, Tommy Fleetwood put a free umbrella to good use as he surged into contention to become the first English winner of the Open Championship for 26 years.
Fleetwood defied miserable conditions at Carnoustie to card six birdies in a flawless second round of 65, two shots outside the course record he set in last year’s Dunhill Links Championship.
“It’s no course record but it will do for today,” said Fleetwood, who recorded three birdies on the front nine and three more on the inward half, including on the daunting 18th to finish his round in style.
“Last year’s second round might have been better than this one.”
Fleetwood was the poster boy of last year’s Open at Royal Birkdale, the 27-year-old from Southport admitting the course was “forbidden fruit” which he and his father had to sneak on to when he was a kid.
An opening 76 left him facing a fourth straight missed cut in the Open, but Fleetwood bounced back with a 69 in challenging conditions to make the cut and went on to finish 27th.
⏱️ ROUND IN 60 SECONDS ⏱️
— The Open (@TheOpen) July 20, 2018
“Last year definitely was a bit more difficult than this year in terms of expectation coming very quickly for me and that was a home Open Championship,” Fleetwood added.
“At the moment I’ve put myself high in the world rankings and I’ve had the US Open just recently where I had a great result. With that comes expectation, and with that you have to learn to manage it and handle it. But at the same time it’s much nicer than having no eyes on you at all.”
That was the case as recently as September 2016 when Fleetwood was a lowly 188th in the world, but he reaped the rewards of returning to his former coach Alan Thompson and employing his friend Ian Finnis – the husband of former England women’s goalkeeper Rachel Brown-Finnis – as his caddie.
Fourth in the US Open last year, Fleetwood performed even better at Shinnecock Hills in June, finishing a shot behind defending champion Brooks Koepka after agonisingly missing from eight feet for birdie on the 72nd hole to equal the all-time major record of 62.
A first major title could now beckon on home soil instead and make Fleetwood the first Englishman to lift the Claret Jug since Nick Faldo in 1992.
“It would be very special,” the world number 10 added. “I can’t lie about it. If I could pick one tournament in my life to win, it would be the Open. I’ve never been anywhere near before.
— The Open (@TheOpen) July 20, 2018
“We’re only halfway through the tournament unfortunately. There’s no point thinking about the end game. Thirty six holes is a long time. Today’s been a round where I’ve put myself back in the tournament and I’ve just got to move on from there really.
“If I can hit it like I did today, then obviously I’m going to have a lot of chances coming in over the weekend and we’ll see where that takes me.”
As for that bright yellow umbrella which attracted so much attention, Fleetwood revealed: “We got one given for free actually. We don’t always carry an umbrella as we don’t have a sponsor. So it just so happens this week that we’ve got a nice Open Championship brolly. It looked quite nice.”