Notes Toms DQs Self Verplank Close to Wish


ST. ANDREWS, Scotland -- David Toms disqualified himself when he couldn't decide if he'd made a mistake.
Toms opened with a 74, which included a double bogey on the 17th hole. He wasn't sure if the ball was moving slightly when he tapped in, and figured he ought to take himself out of the tournament.
``It was just one of those iffy areas about whether or not a rule was violated, and I was the only one that saw it,'' Toms told the Press Association. ``I just felt it was better that I disqualified myself.''
That left Colin Montgomerie and Paul Lawrie to play as a twosome, but it shook up Monty for other reasons.
He was accused of hitting a moving ball at the season-ending Volvo Masters two years ago, a tournament title he wound up sharing with Bernhard Langer. Television replays appeared to show the ball moving, although they were not conclusive enough to assess a penalty.
Montgomerie was keeping Toms' scorecard in the first round, and when he heard about the DQ on the radio, he was nervous.
``I thought, 'What have I done now?''' the Scot said. ``Thank God it was on him this time.''
Scott Verplank wanted to be paired with Tiger Woods for the third round of the British Open. If not for bogeys at Nos. 16 and 17, he would have got his wish.
Still, Verplank's wild ride Friday began even earlier. At the fourth hole, he went just over the green and chipped to 8 feet before the fun really began.
``Hit a nice putt, hit it too hard, lipped it about 2 1/2 feet past,'' said Verplank, who finished with a 70 and wound up five strokes behind Woods, the leader at 11 under. ``That one lipped out, only about a foot. Got up there to tap it in, and I tapped it right in the middle. And it hit the hole and spun back to about a foot. I had already bent over to pick it out and it came popping out on me.''
That four-putt left the ugliest scar on a scorecard that also included two three-putts, although Verplank did plenty of things right to stay in the mix at 6-under 138. For example, he bounced back with an eagle on the par-5 fifth.
``Every hole was an adventure for me,'' Verplank said. ``That's the nature of the golf course here.''
This is the second straight year Verplank, a former U.S. Amateur champion, goes into the weekend in contention. He was three shots behind last year at Royal Troon. Still, he preferred to be playing with Woods, one shot closer.
``If he's out in the lead and I'm in the last group with him, it means I'm the closest giving chase,'' Verplank said. ``If you don't want to play with him, you probably shouldn't come to this tournament.''
Fred Couples always sounds surprised when he's in the hunt at a major. This time with good reason.
Couples was only two off the lead when his tee shot on the par-3 11th sailed so far right it nearly landed on the eighth tee. Worse yet, Couples grabbed his back, which has been giving him trouble the last 10 years.
He not only finished his round, he shot 71 and was at 5-under 139.
``I ended up not really hurting myself, but my back kind of gave out,'' Couples said. ``I never hit a shot like that in my life. I thought maybe that's a wake-up call. Then I played well coming in.''
It wasn't easy. Couples spent the next several holes wondering if the pain would return.
``I don't know what happened, but it wasn't very much fun the next four or five holes with an iron, because I thought I was going to shank every shot. Now I know what an amateur feels like.''
Maybe the birdie by Jack Nicklaus on the 18th hole at St. Andrews wasn't so remarkable.
The 357-yard closing hole is among the easiest in championship golf, so short that players often wait for the green to clear before hitting their tee shots.
Only six players failed to make par or better, and at one point in the second round, there were 10 consecutive birdies, starting with Toru Taniguchi and ending with Angel Cabrera, who were separated by four groups.
The streak ended with Thomas Bjorn, who drove his tee shot to the right and out-of-bounds. He wound up with a double bogey and missed the cut by one shot.
It was only fitting that Jose Maria Olazabal got into the British Open when fellow Spaniard Seve Ballesteros withdrew. Olazabal repaid his debt by producing some Seve magic on the 18th green.
He drove into the hollow known as the Valley of Sin just short of the green, then used his putter to hit up the slope, onto the green and into the cup for an eagle.
Olazabal held both arms aloft before slapping hands with Tiger Woods as he walked by.
The only player who came close to matching that celebration was Tom Lehman, who also made an eagle from the front edge of the 18th green. At the time, he thought he needed that putt to make the cut.
``I left an awful lot of shots out there, and I was due for something good to happen,'' Lehman said. ``I was playing so well, but I had zero to show for it.''
Lehman had some help.
He played with Paul McGinley, and the Irishman had a similar putt on Thursday that he left short.
``I hit that shot a lot of times during the practice rounds, and you have to hit it twice as hard as you think you have to,'' Lehman said, who estimated the distance at 45 feet.
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