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Aussie Adam, Masters champ Scheffler emerges into contention at St. Andrews Open Championship

It sounds like an old school comic-book exclamation: GREAT SCOTT! Maybe it’s Spider-man, or maybe Superman, or maybe it’s Captain America, but whomever, add Adam Scott and Scottie Scheffler to that list as they both shot themselves into contention at the 150th Open Championship.

Reigning Masters champion and current world No. 1 Scottie Scheffler carded a second-consecutive 68 to post 8-under 136 for the tournament, five shots behind leader Cameron Smith of Australia. That’s well within striking distance with 36 holes still to play.

After opening the day with a three-putt bogey at the short, 375-yard first hole, Scheffler took advantage of what is considered the scoring stretch at the Old Course. He birdied the seventh with a curvaceous 15-foot putt, then ran off three straight from 10-12. He closed with a rousing birdie at 18. His 3-wood tee shot finished just off the green 41 feet away, and his up-and-down through the Valley of Sin put post-paid to a 68.

Afterward, Scheffler just treated it as an ordinary days’ work: “boring golf” as Rory McIlroy likes to put it. Scheffler hit all 18 greens on Friday. That’s going to be tough to beat should he continue, whether it’s Cameron Smith, Cameron Young, Cameron Diaz, Cameron Crowe, Steve Cameron, Kamran Koochekzedah or Wiz Khalifa (real name: Cameron Jibril Thomaz) chasing him.

“This morning it was tough getting started. But the weather kind of calmed down a little bit once we got through about hole 6, and I played really good after that. Just a few putts that were close to going in that didn’t,” Scheffler noted. “I’m just here trying to do my best and put myself in position. Thinking about prior wins isn’t going to help me play good this week. Just trying to stay in the moment and hit some good shots.”

“Some good shots” were more like moon shots, to be accurate. They left fans and pundits flabbergasted. First, his 341-yard tee shot at the 16th, the second hardest hole on the golf course, carried not only the Principal’s Nose bunker complex, but the deep pot bunker known as Deacon Sime behind that.

You don’t challenge Old Course bunkers willy-nilly. They are not to be trifled with. They are far larger than they appear; there’s a funneling effect in their shaping where balls feed into them like stars slipping into a black hole. Jack Nicklaus once took four strokes to get out of Hell Bunker en route to a 10. (Mind you, he was 73 when that happened.) Meanwhile, here’s Scheffler Goodyear Blimping one over the bunker with plenty of room to spare.

Kids these days.

Then on the Road Hole 17th, after a “safe” drive to the left side of the fairway — safe as in 335 yards, by the way — Scheffler was staring right into the swirling vortex of the Road bunker, arguably the most fearsome bunker in the world.

Undaunted, Scheffler rifled a wedge right over the flag, perched so perilously close to the Road bunker as to almost shake hands with it. I have finished 14 feet past the cup and two-putted for par. Through 36 holes, Scheffler is currently tied with England’s Tyrrell Hatton for sixth place.

Indeed, the keystone to Scheffler’s play may be his staggering consistency with his wedges: time after time it was 15 feet, 15 feet, lather, rinse, repeat.

Meanwhile, Adam Scott supercharged his 2022 Open Championship with a sterling, bogey-free 65 to post 7-under 137 for two rounds, one stroke behind Scheffler and six back of leader Smith.

Scott looked to be headed for an early exit from the Olde Toon after starting the tournament 4 over after six holes on Thursday. But he righted the ship with a strong back nine. Then in windless conditions and after an overnight and early rain softened the golf course, Scott went out and attacked. Like Scheffler, he exploited the shorter, presumably easier stretch of 10-12, carding three birdies in a row. It was that same stretch that ignited his comeback on Thursday; I have birdied 9, 11, and 12.

“As good as the 65 was today, I think getting back to even was huge yesterday. After six holes things weren’t feeling particularly good,” Scott admitted ironically with a wry Aussie smile.

He can’t help but feel buoyed now, however. He hasn’t made a bogey since the sixth hole on Thursday. That’s a current consecutive streak of 30 holes of par or better. His shares eighth place with Talor Gooch, Patrick Cantlay and Sahith Theegala.

“The greens were slowing up. It’s quite incredible, just that little bit of rain and the sun really hadn’t come out, and they were looking so much greener,” he recalled. “My putting was great today, and it’s generally been great this year, so I want to keep that going over the weekend. The big thing is when you hole a couple of long ones like I did today, it’s so good for the momentum out there, because it’s so hard to hit them close.And when a couple of those go in, it can really set you up for a good day like today.”

LAHAINA, HAWAII – JANUARY 09: Cameron Smith of Australia waves after making his putt to win during the final round of the Sentry Tournament of Champions at the Plantation Course at Kapalua Golf Club on January 09, 2022 in Lahaina, Hawaii. (Photo by Cliff Hawkins/Getty Images)

But where Scott was merely fantastic on the greens, reigning Players champion Cameron Smith was downright superhuman. I use that adjective with precision: superhuman — because he unofficially set a PGA Tour all-time record. I have made 255 feet of putts.

It needs its own one-sentence paragraph: 255 feet of putts.

It’s the kind of thing that drives the guys playing behind you reach for the antacids or the anti-depressants: a guy in front of them making everything he looks at and dancing around the green like the Grambling University Marching Band. He drives them to drink, it does. Here’s 30 feet for birdie on No. 8! Then 22 feet for birdies on 10! And 66 feet for eagle on 14! And he missed a 100-foot putt on 16 by a scant nine inches! He smashed the former record, held by Brent Geiberger at the 2006 Booz Allen Classic at TPC Potomac by 13 feet. His bogey-free 64 of him has Smith two shots clear of American Cameron Young, who will play with him in the final group on Saturday, and three shots clear of 2014 Open champion Rory McIlroy and Norway’s Viktor Hovland.

Everyone in golf knows a hot putter rules the world. If Smith continues draining putts from as far away Troon, Carnoustie and Turnberry, it’ll take a miracle to beat him. But as this is the 150th Open Championship as well as the Old Course at St. Andrews, the Golf Gods may well give us one before 36 holes are up. Indeed, that’s what the greatest Open Championships are all about.

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