CARNOUSTIE, Scotland — Around the treacherous ending gap at Carnoustie, the followers groaned when Kevin Kisner’s second shot landed within the notorious Barry Burn. Maybe they need to have responded with a standing O as an alternative. Maybe they need to have felt like giving poor Mr. Kisner a kiss.
Nothing in opposition to the effective Southern gentleman and golfer by the use of Aiken, South Carolina, and the Palmetto Golf Club, the place the baked summer season fairways and greens can put together an American for the unpredictability of Scotland’s excessive-pace hyperlinks. But Kisner’s miniature van de Velde-ian misadventure on the 18th Friday led to a double-bogey, dropped him right into a share of the 6-underneath lead with Zach Johnson, and introduced a few distinguished elders named Tiger and Phil again from the key championship lifeless.
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Kisner had an unique maintain on the lead at eight-underneath as he began the 499-yard, par-four closing gap, and walked away with an unlucky quantity for his scorecard and, frankly, a lucky one for The Open scoreboard and a weekend that would belong to the ages — and the aged. It would’ve been onerous to make a case that the 40-somethings, Woods and Mickelson, have been nonetheless credible threats at even-par, eight strokes again with two rounds to go. But at 6 strokes again?
In his 2013 Open victory at Muirfield, Mickelson erased a 5-stroke deficit within the closing spherical and gained by three. Woods’ historical past of domination within the majors would not embrace many comeback tales, however since he has resumed his pursuit of Jack Nicklaus’ document, it is value noting 46-year-previous Nicklaus trailed by six photographs at the halfway level of the 1986 Masters, his 18th and closing main title.
A half-dozen photographs after 36 holes is doable, even for graying legends planning a $10 million, winner-take-all exhibition to compensate for the actual-season turf they surrendered to a contemporary set of American stars.
And talking of these 20-somethings, Kisner’s moist-and-wild double gave new life to Rickie Fowler, who is just three strokes again, and to defending Open champ Jordan Spieth, additionally solely three again. That double additionally put essentially the most completed of all younger gamers worldwide, Rory McIlroy, solely 2 strokes again and reaching eagerly for his fifth main title and his first since 2014.
Golf wants its marquee actors on its largest levels, and the more Rorys and Rickies and Tigers and Phils in competition, the higher. Kisner’s flawed selections on the 18th opened the door for more scrumptious weekend theater. Off the tee, he hit driver into the tough stuff, then determined his eight-iron would cowl the 150 yards wanted to hold the burn.
“But it just came out like a high flop shot to the right,” Kisner mentioned. “It was weird. I don’t know if it caught something or what happened. You never know out of that grass.”
The morning Scottish rain had given option to Southern California-style sunshine, however the grass was nonetheless moist sufficient and cussed sufficient to ship Kisner’s strategy into the identical hazard that price Jean van de Velde the Claret Jug in 1999. Kisner dealt with the double-bogey like a professional, and for good cause: He has gained twice on the PGA Tour. He has contended in a significant (final summer season’s PGA Championship). He has earned a present rating of 33rd on the planet. In different phrases, the man can actually play.
But at 34, Kisner is one other nameless face to the common American soccer-basketball-baseball fan who cares about golf solely 4 weeks a yr. If he might prop up Woods and Mickelson, and enhance the percentages of a Rory vs. Rickie vs. Jordan closing-spherical showdown by dropping one into Barry Burn, hey, by all means — burn, child, burn.
Nothing private, simply enterprise. Before he left the premises, Woods assumed, incorrectly, that he would get up Saturday going through at least a 7-stroke deficit. “It will be a pretty packed leaderboard,” Tiger mentioned, “and I’m certainly right there in it.”
Mickelson expressed the same diploma of religion in his probabilities. Asked if he felt he was out of the event, he mentioned, “No, you never know. A lot of strange things happen here, especially with the weather. It may or may not come in. We’ve seen a lot of crazy things in this tournament take place.”
One wayward swing — Kisner’s second on the 18th — made the weekend prospects at Carnoustie fairly loopy. What was unhealthy for the solo chief after 35 holes was good for the game, and for everybody who’s hoping desperately to see a Sunday conflict of titans they may always remember.