The 151st Open Championship
Dates: Thu 20-Sun 23 July Venue: Royal Liverpool, Hoylake
Coverage: Live radio and text commentary on the BBC Sport website, with video clips each day. Daily highlights program on BBC Two from 20:00 BST
Michael Stewart’s story is one of perseverance. So it’s perhaps little wonder that his second-ever major championship round was one rooted in resolve.
Darkness was falling, and the final few worse-for-wear spectators were staggering away from Hoylake, on Thursday when the unheralded 33-year-old Scot birdied the last to creep stealthily into the upper reaches of the Open Championship leaderboard.
Repeating his six-birdie 68 never seemed likely on Friday, but there was an admirable diligence to the manner in which Stewart went about his work in the sunshine and the spotlight to book his place over the weekend.
The former Scottish Amateur champion rarely looked daunted by his surroundings, perhaps evoking memories of the young man who was part of the GB&I Walker Cup team in 2011 that beat a US side featuring Jordan Spieth and Patrick Cantlay.
He turned pro later that year but has spent much of the intervening decade scratching around. Indeed, Stewart almost chucked golf a few years ago and even had a spell working for a company that made hand sanitizers.
Given that just making the cut guarantees a significant slab of the folding stuff, the next couple of days could be hugely significant in several different ways.
“Yeah, I’m trying not to think about that,” he told BBC Scotland. “I need to keep in the moment and do what I’m doing and the rest of it will take care of itself.
“I’ve played a lot of poor golf in the last few years and made some bad decisions. I remember playing with Lee Westwood when he was world number one in my first professional event and thinking ‘I am so far away from where he is’.
“I tried to go crazy in the gym and change my technique and six months later I walked off the course pretty much in tears because I couldn’t keep the ball on the planet. So there’s a lot to be said for just keeping at it.”
And that is exactly what Stewart did on Friday. Time and again he got himself into a touch of bother off the tee. And time and again he either retrieved the situation with an unflashy approach or, on a couple of occasions, filthy bunker shots.
All the while, he couldn’t escape the scoreboards showing him right among it. “I remember on the 10th tee, I’d just bogeyed and, when I looked up, I thought, ‘oh, I would’ve been tied third’. So I tried not to look at them too much.”
Certainly, they didn’t make as good viewing over the final stretch. Birdies at five and seven must have felt a long time ago when things all went awry on the par-five 15.
Stewart had to shovel his second shot backwards out of a fairway bunker – then got tangled in the nasty stuff up the left. He walked off with a shake of the head, a seven on his card, and his name wiped from the reckoning for the first time all day.
That he kept the heid and finished with three pars says plenty about the Troon-native’s composure.
“In terms of my play, I’ve not exceeded my expectations, but in terms of my position, I absolutely have,” he told BBC Scotland. “But, if I tighten a few things up, there’s no reason I can’t push on over the weekend.”
Many of his compatriots won’t have that chance, though, after failing to repair the damage wrought by their first rounds.
Ewan Ferguson and Conor Syme both posted 75s for a seven-over total, four better than Marc Warren (74) and five in front of Graeme Robertson (79).