SANDWICH, England (July 14, 2011) -- For the first time since 1968, an amateur sits at the top of the leaderboard after a round of the British Open.
Tom Lewis, ranked No. 2 in the Golfweek/amateurgolf.com World Rankings, rattled off four straight birdies on hole Nos. 14-17 to take his round from good to great and earn the respect and support of playing partner and 5-time British Open champion Tom Watson (who he was named after).
A solid up-and-down par from the left side of the green on No. 18 gave Lewis a 5-under 65 for the day, and allowed him to set the record for the lowest British Open 18-hole score by an amateur. Prior to that, the following players were tied for that honor at 66: Frank Stranahan, 4th round, Troon, 1950; Tiger Woods, 2nd round, Royal Lytham & St Annes, 1996; Justin Rose, 2nd round Royal Birkdale, 1998.
Lewis a 20-year-old Englishman from Welwyn Garden City, Hertfordshire (North of London) is tied with Thomas Bjorn of Denmark. To fans of the amateur game who follow the Golfweek/amateurgolf.com rankings, his consistency should come as no surprise. Just over a month ago Lewis recorded a major amateur victory at the St. Andrews Links Trophy.
Said Tom Watson, after witnessing Lewis' Thursday round first hand:
"He's quite a refined player at age 20. We certainly have a new young breed out here, don't we?"
Amateurs have fared well at the British Open. Matteo Manassero of Italy finished 13th in 2009, and Jin Jeong of Korea finished 14th last year. Notable players Sergio Garcia and Justin Rose first stepped into the limelight in front of international TV audiences at the original "Open Championship."
The No. 1 ranked amateur in the world, Peter Uihlein, is tied for second low amateur with 2010 British Amateur champion Bryden MacPherson of Australia. Both players posted 1-over 71 and are in good shape to make the cut with solid rounds on Friday.