Caroline Masson in unfamiliar spot: the lead
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland -- At a time when most of the competitors were tucking into their dinners, Caroline Masson of Germany sneaked in with a second-round 65 to take the halfway lead at 11-under-par in the Women's British Open. Masson, who has a one-shot lead over South Koreans Inbee Park and Meena Lee, has never won a tournament and has never previously held a halfway lead.
So how does she feel?
"It's awesome, unbelievable," she said. "I've had two great days."
Whether Masson, 22, can stay put remains to be seen, because there are a handful of great players at her heels, starting with Park, the 2008 U.S Women's Open champion.
Se Ri Pak, the older stateswoman among the South Koreans on the LPGA Tour and the winner of five majors, including the 2001 British Open, is among a group of three at 8-under, and world No. 1 Yani Tseng is one shot further back.
Brittany Lincicome is the best-placed among the American contingent at 6-under. Angela Stanford could have been up there, too, if not for what happened at the 18th.
Stanford, who gathered from waving spectators that her second shot was out of bounds, put down another ball, only to learn that the first missile had not, in fact, crossed the out-of-bounds line. She had to stay with the second ball, and wound up with a double-bogey, which left her with a 72 and a 4-under total.
John Philp, the head green-keeper, always has prided himself on presiding over the toughest championship links of them all, but with little or nothing in the way of wind, the links were there for the taking in the second round. Of the early starters, 16 of the first 24 players shot par or better.
Both Park and Pak returned with 64s. Park paved the way for hers with an outward 30, taking in three pars and six birdies. Over the day, her only mistake was a bogey at the 12th, where she was caught up in a greenside bunker.
Pak, 33, had matching halves of 32 on a morning when her putter was hot from the start. It was not so much the lack of wind that took this veteran of 10 British Women's Opens aback, but the sight of the sun. "I don't know if we're going to see sun again, but that's what it is," she said.
Pak, whose 1998 U.S. Women's Open win was 10 years ahead of Park's, explained that her lasting relationship with the game is due to the fact that she has learned to relax. Instead of a life of nothing but golf, as was the case at the start of her LPGA career, she has learned to enjoy a bit of socializing.
"The game is still the biggest thing for me," she said, "but I'm trying to make a better balance of my life and game. I'm drinking beer instead of coffee. Things like that. Things I've never done before, but just like a normal person does."
Because this change of direction has worked for her, she is advising all of those South Koreans who have followed her to the LPGA Tour to make the same adjustments in their lifestyles.
"They work 24/7, each day, every single second, every moment and they never have any relax or light time,'' she said. "So I tell them that while they must focus 100 percent on their golf, they must make sure 100 percent that they try to relax -- and that way they will play better."
Pak believes they are listening and that, little by little, their parents are realizing that what she is saying is in their daughters' best interests.
As the first Korean on tour, Pak is proud that the Koreans currently have as many as 35 players in the top 100 of the Rolex World Rankings. No one could have enjoyed the final stages of the recent U.S. Women's Open more than she did as she watched So Yeon Ryu and Hee Kyung contest the playoff.
"It always makes me smile, because I'm just happy for them," she said.
Arguably the biggest shock of the day came when Laura Davies, who won the British in the days before it enjoyed major status, missed the cut after two visits to the Barry Burn at the 18th.
Padraig Harrington was twice in the water on 18 in the final round of his Open win here in 2007. However, where the Irishman still contrived to pin down a 6, Davies amassed a nine and a 6-over total of 150.