Alker flying flag for New Zealand at British Open
LYTHAM ST. ANNES, England (AP)
Major champions and serial tour winners flooded the leaderboard at the British Open on Friday, but there was also room for an unheralded journeyman from New Zealand playing in only his third major and whose wife is his caddie.
Steven Alker, the only Kiwi in the 156-man field, stayed in the mix for a shock run at the title with a second straight 1-under 69. He was tied for 11th on 2 under at the end of the second round at Royal Lytham & St. Annes, four shots off third-place Tiger Woods.
The 40-year-old Alker, who is based in Phoenix, plays in the second-tier Nationwide Tour in the United States and only made the British Open after coming through a final qualifying tournament in northern England.
''I like to think this kind of course suits me because you have to plod your way around and hit your spots,'' Alker said.
Alker is looking to emulate the success of legendary New Zealander Bob Charles, who won the British Open at Lytham in 1963. The only other Kiwi to win a major is Michael Campbell - at the U.S. Open in 2005.
Alker may not have victory in mind, with Brandt Snedeker eight shots ahead in the lead. But he showed his liking for links golf by thriving in windy conditions early Friday while other more illustrious names like major winners Rory McIlroy and Padraig Harrington struggled.
Alker's other Opens were in 1998 at Royal Birkdale and 2007 at Carnoustie, where he failed to make the weekend.
''I've been putting well this week,'' he said. ''My short game feels pretty good. That's kind of helped me out pretty well. But some nice putts coming down the stretch that are from 20, 30 feet have been pretty solid.''
Wife Tanya is on the bag this week for what could be the biggest payday of Alker's 17-year professional career.
''I've got my family here this week, so we're just keeping it relaxed,'' he said. ''We're just trying to have a little bit more fun this week.''