TROON, Scotland (AP) - The ultimate grinder is halfway to one of golf's ultimate prizes. Skip Kendall, who has not won in 310 PGA Tour events, eagled
the 16th hole from off the green Friday on his way to a 5-under-66 and the second round lead in the British Open.
The improbable leader, who had to qualify to get in his third Open, stole the spotlight on a day when Masters champion Phil Mickelson recovered with a
66 to get back in contention and Colin Montgomerie thrilled the hometown fans with a move of his own.
"It was a glorious day," Kendall said.
Indeed it was, with spectators enjoying light winds and warm temperatures off the Scottish Coast and players enjoying even more the scores Royal Troon
was giving up. Kendall holed a bunker shot on the third hole for a birdie to spark his round, and rolled a putt from off the front of the green on the
par-5 16th to grab the lead from Thomas Levet of France.
"I was not paying attention to a lot of things you could get caught up in out there," Kendall said.
Kendall, who came agonizingly close to winning earlier this year when he lost a playoff to Mickelson at the Bob Hope Classic, has won more than $6.5
million on the tour but has never fulfilled his expectations by winning. He finished two rounds at 7-under 135, a shot ahead of first round leader
Levet and two shots ahead of England's Barry Lane and K. J. Choi of South Korea.
"I've been very close," Kendall said. "I really feel like I can win on the PGA Tour, it's just a matter of time."
The unassuming 39-year-old American topped a leaderboard full of international players that included proven major championship winners like Vijay
Singh and Ernie Els. Tiger Woods was six shots back after shooting an even par 71. Urged on by shouts of "Come on, Monty, come on" and thunderous
ovations around the greens, Montgomerie birdied two of his last four holes on the course where he learned his game before missing a short par putt on
the last hole for a 69 that left him three shots back.
"It built up through the day," Montgomerie said. "The crowd was absolutely fantastic, just fantastic."
Montgomerie would have been a stroke closer but for a missed 2-footer on the last hole.
"Forget that," Montgomerie said of the final missed putt. "A perfect round of golf has never been played on a links course and never will be. I would
have taken 69 to start the day."
While Montgomerie looked forward to the weekend, defending champion Ben Curtis looked for a plane ride home. Curtis followed an opening 75 with a 74
and missed the cut, a year after he won in his first major championship. Els and Vijay led a group of four players at 4-under-par, three shots back,
while Mickelson made a move with a bogey-free 66 that put him at 3 under, tied with U.S. Open champion Retief Goosen.
Making a bid for one of two majors he hasn't won, Singh put together a solid 1-under 70 Friday that was good enough to stay in contention. Singh,
whose chance to win the Open last year came apart on the last three holes at Royal St. George, played the difficult back nine without making a bogey
on a day when the winds were never really a big factor at Royal Troon.
"I know I have to go out there and grab it," Singh said. "I was given chances before and I didn't take them and I am in great position again this
Singh has won the Masters and PGA Championship, and needs the British and U.S. Opens to complete his personal Grand Slam. After posting his early
score Friday, though, he was more concerned with the immediate future.
"It would be nice," he said. "I'm playing well, which is the best way to attack them, and if you feel good about your game then you have a good chance
of achieving that."
The leaders didn't include Woods, though he briefly flirted with the top of the leaderboard before finishing with an even par round that put him at
141, three behind the clubhouse leaders. Woods, winless in his last eight major championships, appeared to be on his way a a low round when he made
two early birdies. But he missed a 3-footer for par on the seventh hole and then 3-putted from off the green on the ninth.
Woods, whose lone British Open win came four years ago at St. Andrews, shot a 71 that included nine pars heading into the wind on the back nine and
was at 1-under 141.
"I'm right in the championship," Woods said. "I've got a great chance of winning this thing coming into the weekend."