CALMER conditions greeted the early starters in the second round of the Open Championship at Royal Birkdale today.
And France’s Jean Van de Velde took advantage with a birdie at the first to move within three shots of the lead held by Northern Ireland’s Graeme McDowell, American Rocco Mediate and Australia’s Robert Allenby.
Van de Velde famously blew a three-shot lead on the final hole of the 1999 Open at Carnoustie, going on to lose in a play-off with Paul Lawrie and Justin Leonard.
The 42-year-old has missed the cut on his last two appearances in the Open in 2001 and 2005, and needed a birdie on the last hole of final qualifying at Hillside to make it to Birkdale.
But his opening birdie took him to two over par and into a share of 15th place as he looked to make the most of no rain and lighter winds than those which sent scores soaring early yesterday.
With the majority of the best scores set late yesterday, most of the leaders were among the early starters today, with McDowell off at 7.25am, Mediate at 7.03am and Allenby at 7.58am.
Phil Mickelson and Ernie Els were out in the afternoon but faced a battle to make the cut after carding rounds of 79 and 80 respectively.
In a sign of the improved conditions, McDowell abandoned his waterproofs and even a jumper as he opened his round with a par four, two-putting from a few yards short of the first green.
Mediate also parred the opening three holes while Van de Velde was unable to find another birdie and remained two over.
Former champion Paul Lawrie, playing alongside Mediate, birdied the third to improve to six over par, currently just one shot outside the projected cut mark.
McDowell bogeyed the second after driving into the rough and being unable to reach the green with his second shot, and Allenby also started with a bogey on the first.
Mediate was not alone in the lead, however, as 53-year-old former champion Greg Norman, who married former tennis star Chris Evert in the Bahamas at the end of June, birdied the first to improve to one under par.
Van de Velde had also found another birdie, holing from three feet on the seventh to improve to one over par, just two shots off the lead.