No disrespect to Branden Grace, Joel Sjoholm, Thorbjorn Olesen and Anton Haig, but the halfway leaderboard doesn't quite get the juices flowing. In a field peppered with major winners and Ryder Cup players, the star attractions have failed to shine.
With the cut falling after today's third round, and only the top 60 and ties progressing to the closing 18 holes tomorrow, it looks as though there will be a number of leading lights on the casualty list. Of the three victorious members of Europe's Medinah Miracle competing at St Andrews, Kingsbarns and Carnoustie, it would appear that Martin Kaymer's hangover has been the least ferocious. The German at least sits inside the current qualifying mark, in a tie for 56th on a three-under 141, but the 27-year-old lags 14 strokes behind frontrunner Grace, who eased into a five-shot advantage over the field with a 17-under tally of 127. Peter Hanson sits down in 73rd while Paul Lawrie is a lowly 124th.
"With all the time changes and the party on Sunday night, it can be difficult to motivate yourself," suggested a weary Kaymer. With the likes of Ernie Els, Louis Oosthuizen, Charl Schwartzel, Padraig Harrington, Darren Clarke, Paul McGinley and Thomas Bjorn all muddling on in the lower reaches of the order, the glitz and glamour has been replaced by toil and trouble.
On a day when a dog named Digby grabbed a brief share of the limelight, the championship has gone to the dogs for a posse of high-profile hopefuls. When news dribbled through about Paul Casey having his ball pinched by a dog at Kingsbarns, there was a certain amount of wincing in the media centre. The full facts of the story were less painful, though. Shaping up for an eagle putt on the 12th green, Casey watched on as Digby bounded on to the scene and made off with his ball. "I was trying to get him to drop it in the hole," joked Casey.
Perhaps tournament pacesetter Grace could have taken control of Digby given that the South African seems to be enjoying a nice stroll in the park. A barnstorming 60 in the opening round at Kingsbarns was always going to be a hard act to follow but, on a tricky day in Fife, Grace bolstered his bid for a fourth European Tour title of a sparkling campaign with a neatly assembled five-under 67 over the Old Course at St Andrews.
Despite slipping to his first bogey of the championship at the fifth, the 24-year-old was swiftly back into his stride and blasted five birdies over his next six holes as he opened up the biggest halfway lead on the circuit this season.
Grace, who was languishing down among the 300s on the world rankings a year ago but is now up in the rarefied air of the top 50, warmed up for this week's affair by winning a Pro-Am contest on the Sunshine Tour in his native South Africa. That victory earned him some £6762 but he's now on course to land a cheque for £491,640.
"You know, I love the feeling of winning," said Grace, who won back-to-back events on the European Tour in his homeland at the start of the year. "As any pro will tell you, once you get that winning feeling it just motivates you to keep pushing. Last week's win back home gave me that edge to keep going here this week. A win is a win and, even though it was a small event, it still gives you the fire."
Olesen, the young Dane who won the Sicilian Open earlier in the year and shared ninth in the Open at Royal Lytham, pieced together a three-under 69 at Carnoustie for a 12-under 132 and was joined in a share of second place by fellow Scandinavian, Sjoholm.
The 26-year-old, born in Chile but adopted at three months old and raised by a Swedish family, was playing his first full round over the Old Course and he revelled in the experience. Despite a double-bogey 6 on the seventh, Sjoholm repaired the damage with a haul of seven birdies as he kept himself in the hunt for a maiden tour triumph.
Sjoholm may be looking down on a host of the decorated names that he has overshadowed here, but the Georgia State University graduate will always look up to his powerful peers on the tour.
"It's a big hats off to them (the Ryder Cup players) for actually showing up here this week," he said. "If I'd been on that team, I don't think I would've come out, I would've been inside a bottle for seven days and just wanting to hug everybody. Those are the guys that make our living so special because, without the big players, without the big names, we can't get as much sponsorship and we can't get this money that we are playing for."
On the home front, Richie Ramsay, who began his challenge with a 65 over the Old Course, mounted a late salvage operation over the rigorous links of Carnoustie to post a battling level-par 72 for a seven-under 137 to sit in a tie for 17th. Ramsay, the winner of last month's European Masters, had been three-over with eight to play but an eagle on the 12th aided the recovery. Stephen Gallacher, whose one and only European Tour triumph arrived in this event back in 2004, joined Ramsay on the seven-under mark after a two-under 70 at Carnoustie.
"Anything under par here is good as it's a course that can easily burn your toes," said the Scot. Unlike some of the big names, Gallacher's challenge has not gone up in smoke.
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