LOCH LOMOND, Scotland -- His momentum slowed only by the soggy greens of Loch Lomond, U.S. Open champion Retief Goosen managed to keep some distance over the field with a 2-under 69 on Friday for a two-stroke lead in the Scottish Open.
Goosen, hitting the ball as crisply as he did last month in his playoff victory at Southern Hills, missed at least a half-dozen putts inside 15 feet as he tried to negotiate spike marks and heel prints from being in one of the last groups to play.
The soft-spoken South African had few complaints at the end, other than being late for a business meeting. He was at 131, tied for the lowest 36-hole score in the short history at Loch Lomond, and had a two-stroke margin over Adam Scott of Australia.
John Daly and Tom Lehman, the only U.S. tour players in the final tournament before the British Open, were both five strokes behind.
"I played well, but didn't putt well," Goosen said. "I misread a few putts and couldn't get any feel. I suppose it's only to be expected with 156 players going through and the amount of rain we had."
Goosen, who opened with a 62 on Thursday before heavy rains arrived, birdied three of his first seven holes to open a three-stroke lead with the easier front nine still to play.
But a calm, misty afternoon gave way to whipping winds, and he failed to birdie any of his final 12 holes. The end was fitting - an approach to about 10 feet, a two-putt for par.
"Overall, I'm not too unhappy," Goosen said. "I hit some good irons, and I'm looking forward to a more normal day tomorrow."
Thomas Bjorn has six birdies in a round of 67 and was at 135, along with Barry Lane and Paul McGinley. Colin Montgomerie (67) was among those at 137.
Most Americans have skipped the Scottish Open because it is not considered the best way to prepare for the British Open. Loch Lomond was designed by Tom Weiskopf and, while spectacular in scenery, is a far cry from the links-styled golf at Royal Lytham & St. Annes.
Lehman, who had a 67, won at Loch Lomond in 1997 and is simply playing to win.
"I just like being here," he said. "I don't what the course exactly does for me, but I like the way it sets up and I feel like the shape of the shots suits my game."
Daly remains a work in progress. Friday was another step toward consistency, and away from the wild swings that have dogged him throughout his career.
Despite a double bogey on the 15th, Daly closed with two birdies for a 68, his ninth consecutive round at par or better. It also was his 23rd time in the 60s out of 59 rounds this year.
"That's the biggest change I've seen in my game," Daly said. "I used to get a bit discouraged and started forcing shots, but I don't do that so much."
Just don't get the idea Daly is any less entertaining.
In reviewing a life of drinking, gambling, ex-wives and his struggles to overcome it all, Daly described his hometown of Dardanelle, Ark., as "the home of the 16-year-old pregnant women," a place where "you drank beer at 8 years old and fished and hunted."
"We were sort of free to do what we wanted," he said.
And when asked about jet lag having arrived only on Wednesday, Daly said he has been getting up about 4 a.m.
"I get up when I used to get in," he said.
Goosen lives his life on a more even keel - a simple game with a solid swing, not too much excitement whether he's rolling in birdies or scrambling out of the rough to make par.
He pledged that his U.S. Open victory would not change him, and so far it hasn't. Coming off a 66 in the final round of the European Open last week, he's still playing great.
Divots: Colin Montgomerie said starting times will be a key next week for the British Open. "If you know anybody of high standing in the R&A, 8:30 both mornings would be great," he said with a smile. ... Nick Faldo's only birdie in a round of 73 came at the right time - a 10-footer on his last hole that allowed him to make the cut. ...The first two rounds have been played under "lift, clean and place" rules because of the rains.
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