ST. ANDREWS, SCOTLAND, JULY 20 -- Even the term journeyman is too generous for Jamie Spence, a 27-year-old English qualifier who is sponsored by Cleanmasters Ltd., the refuse company in charge of tidying up the grounds at St. Andrews. Spence was the first player off the tee this morning and turned in a 65 that hurled his name high on to the leader board at the British Open.
Spence has been unable to make it on the European Tour, failing in five attempts to gain his playing card. He arrived here Monday evening and stared agape at the course that he today birdied eight times to just one bogey, to become the utter surprise of the tournament with his 7-under 137. His ambitions and wants are simple.
"I want to make a living out of the game," he said.
It seems as if one of them turns up every year in the British Open, some obscure home player who earns a few moments of fame with a good round and an interesting life story. Spence is the grandson of a former pro soccer player with a few drops of Scottish blood. He is suffering from a case of food poisoning that he got Saturday night from eating bad fish. He has dedicated this tournament to his father, James, who suffered a heart attack at Christmas.
Spence teed off at 7:15 a.m., watched by just a few hundred people, but he gained a large crowd as he amassed his birdies. Coming down the 15th hole he thought of his father, who was home in Kent watching on television. "I thought, what if he sees my name on TV, it might be fatal," Spence said.
Spence's original aim was to make the 36-hole cut. It gradually dawned on him that his 65 was good enough to put him near the lead.
"My reaction when I saw my name on the leader board was that I want to see it higher," he said.
Palmer Feels Cut, Bids Adieu
Arnold Palmer, 60, ended the last British Open of his career with a second round of 71 for par, missing the cut by a stroke. He tried valiantly to prolong his stay, urged on a by a frantic crowd as he saved two good pars on the 17th and 18th holes, but failed because of record low scores at St. Andrews.
Palmer said this will be his last British Open because he can't abide missing cuts, as he did at Royal Troon last year. "I don't like being in the field and shooting 81 or 82, I won't do that," he said. So today's round coupled with his 73 on Thursday was at least redeeming.
Palmer's round might have been better if he had not suffered two three-putts for bogeys, missing an 18-incher for par at the third hole and a two-footer at the ninth. But he garnered roars when he got under par with a birdie at the 382-yard 16th hole with a 6-iron to eight feet.
"I think they sensed the same thing I was feeling, let's really push," he said. "They felt the same relief I did to finish it. You could almost feel the vibration from the gallery, I think they were as nervous as I was."
Palmer has been asked a number of times if the emotion of the occasion has overcome him yet. As he struggled up out of a chair, he laughed and said, "I feel the emotion in my back."