You don't want to say the British Open is over, because maybe Bobby Clampett will break both legs getting into his plus-twos the next time. But even in plain britches he shot a course-record 66 today that leaves as his closest pursuers a nervous South African, an Irishman who can't drive straight and a German afraid the yips will seize him again.
Clampett's midway total of 133, one shot off the tournament record, puts him five strokes ahead of Nick Price (69-69), and six ahead of Des Smyth and Bernhard Langer (70-69).
Said Price, the South African: "The nice thing is, I'm not in the lead. I don't think I could handle it. I just qualified for the tournament the first time. This way everybody's looking for Bobby to make the mistakes, and I'll just play my own game."
Said Smyth, the Irishman: "It's a crazy game, this. I've been struggling on the greens, but I've putted better here than in the past year. But now I have no confidence in my driver. I don't know what the hell's going on. I wouldn't want to count the number of fairways I've missed. I can't keep going on this way."
Said Langer, who once declared himself the best German golfer ever, only to confess he had yips so bad that every putt was an act of courage: "I feel much better on the greens (after making four putts longer than 20 feet). I haven't had any three-putts yet. I have had the yips. I know what they are. But I don't have them now."
Bobby Clampett should worry about these fellows? The closest real contender is Tom Watson, whose 71 put him at 140, seven shots behind and tied with Britain's Sandy Lyle, who also shot 66 today. Then at 141 come two more Brits, Peter Oosterhuis (67) and Ken Brown (71).
Other Americans have miles to go. Tom Purtzer matched the 66s for a 142, defending champion Bill Rogers had a 70 for 143, Arnold Palmer's 73 put him at 144, Craig Stadler had a 74 for 145, and Jack Nicklaus added 70 to his 77.
So what's to worry for Clampett? There rang in the voices of his nearest pursuers a tone of trepidation that is foreign to Clampett now. He believes he can make birdie even if they hide the cup under the Loch Ness monster. His plus-twos will be ready, too. His girlfriend, Ann Mebane, hemmed up a pair of white slacks for today's round so Clampett can go to the dance Saturday and Sunday in the knickerbockers and Argyle socks he wore the first day.
"It will be a mental challenge from here on out," said the Californian, only 22 and four times a runner-up in barely two full years on the PGA Tour. "It'll be to see if I can mentally keep doing the same things I've been doing."
Today Clampett worked more of the magic that produced five birdies the first round. On today's eight birdies, astonishing iron play left him with no more than an eight-foot putt. Also strong, he sent a two-wood shot 273 yards to the 556-yard fourth hole to set up a two-putt birdie.
"The attitude I'm taking now is that I'm just going to continue with the same game plan," Clampett said. "I want to see how low I can shoot. It's like a personal challenge to see how low I can go."
Though Watson's work here has been commendable, he yet finds himself seven shots behind, a predicament that caused him to say, "I feel like I'm in second place in the A flight . . . With good weather, Bobby will be hard to catch because he's playing well and won't make mistakes. Bad weather could help us."
When it rained on St. Swithin's Day Thursday, legend said the rain would go on for 40 days. Even saints can't predict the weather, it turns out, because today was a piece of Scottish heaven. The sun made a guest appearance that illuminated the mountainous Isle of Arran previously lost in the chill mist of the Firth of Clyde off the first fairway. The numbing winds of Thursday lay today, and 83 of the 140 starters improved on their first-round scores. Fully 22 were under par, opposed to 13 the first day.
"It played more like a pussycat today than it did the lion of yesterday," Watson said, giving the rueful shrug of a fellow who may be the game's best bad-weather player.
Clampett was so certain in his work early this morning that by the time Watson arrived on the first tee, Clampett already had made four birdies in the space of 90 minutes and seven holes.
"I'm five shots behind, I'm six shots behind, I'm seven shots behind," said Watson, replaying the early moments of his round while Clampett took up where he left off with his opening 67. "I said, 'What do I have to do? I better make some birdies.' "
Watson managed only one early birdie, though, that at the fourth hole, by which time Clampett was 11 under par for his first 29 holes. Watson later birdied the nigh invincible 15th, where he chipped in from the fringe, and at the 16th, where his wedge shot stopped a foot from the cup. Even with a bogie at the 18th, those birdies made Watson the only no-questions contender among the 12 players under par for 36 holes.
"Sure, Bobby's got a lot of pressure on him now," said Watson, three times a British Open champion. "But that's tempered by his cushion. He doesn't have a one-shot lead, he has a big lead."
Langer doesn't think the tournament is over.
"I'm six behind, which is quite a lot, but six shots can be gone in six holes--and we still have 36 holes to play," he said.