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Minefield Muirfield

Only 11 players go under par on Day Two of British Open; Jiminez leads with 3-under,Woods a shot behind

Tiger Woods plodded along most of the day. He lipped out a two-foot putt. He settled for a bunch of pars. Then,with his final stroke,he looked like the Tiger of old.

Woods rolled in a 15-footer for birdie on Muirfield’s tough closing hole on Friday,raising his putter toward the blue sky with a flourish,fully aware he was positioned again to break the longest major drought of his career.

Fun-loving Spaniard Miguel Angel Jimenez turned in another solid round,an even-par 71 that left him with a one-shot edge in the clubhouse. Right on his heels were Woods,Lee Westwood and Henrik Stenson,with a bunch of other guys,including first-round leader Zach Johnson,scrambling near the top of the leaderboard with holes still to play.

Woods finished with a 71 that looked pretty good given the perilous,rock-hard setup. He endured a stretch of 12 holes without a birdie before stealing one at the 18th.

Everyone was. Par was a good score,as Jimenez showed. The 49-year-old had a couple of birdies,a pair of bogeys and a whole bunch of pars. “I’m playing very solid,” he said. “In these conditions,it’s not easy. With these pin positions,it’s very,very tough to get in close.”

Not that Jimenez is getting too worked up about it.

The cigar-smoking,wine-loving golfer nicknamed ‘The Mechanic’ is perhaps best known outside Europe for his unique stretching routine before each round. He’ll put his knees together and gyrate his hips in a rather ridiculous-looking motion — especially for a guy with a hefty belly and even heftier ponytail — then pull out a couple of clubs to help work his legs and arms,though none of it looks very strenuous.

But,as silly as he looks,Jiminez is all business on the course. He’s already bounced back from missing four months recovering from a broken right leg sustained in a skiing accident. If he can keep it going through the weekend,he might take a run at Julius Boros,the oldest major champion in golf history when he won the PGA Championship at age 48.

Lee Westwood was one of the few players to put up a score in the 60s,but even he was staggering a bit by the end. After a brilliant front nine — he carded five birdies — the 40-year-old Englishman bogeyed three of the last six holes to finish with a 68. Still,he joined Woods and Stenson just one stroke behind Jimenez’s 3-under 139 total. The last English golfer to win the British Open was Nick Faldo in 1992. Westwood was solidly positioned to break that streak and pick up his first major title.

Woods is trying to break a drought of his own. He’s 0-for-16 at majors since the 2008 US Open,and missed four others during that stretch recovering from injuries.

Whoever wins this one will have to earn it. While the weather has been unseasonably warm and dry,the fearsome wind more of a gentle breeze,there weren’t many chances for going low. Not on a tabletop of a course that is more brown than green,with pin conditions that some players complained were downright unfair.

As expected,the conditions toughened in the afternoon as the bright sun firmed up the greens even more. Phil Mickelson drove into a bunker at the second and took a double-bogey. Brandt Snedeker doubled the 10th. Rafael Cabrera-Bello did the same at the 14th on the way to a 74.

Two-time major Angel Cabrera made the turn at 4-under,another big-time performance from a golfer who rarely does anything special unless there’s something special on the line. Mark O’Meara,the 1998 Open champion,opened with a surprising 67 that left him one stroke behind Zach Johnson. But the course bit back Friday,sending the 56-year-old plunging out of contention with a 78.

The young weren’t spared,either. Jordan Spieth,the 19-year-old who last weekend became the PGA Tour’s youngest winner since 1931,made only two bogeys through his first 32 holes and was 3 under. Then came a double-bogey at the 15th,back-to-back bogeys at the next two holes,and a missed chance at No. 18 when a 4-footer for birdie slid by the cup. Just like that,the youngster found himself at 1-over 143.

Zach Johnson had not been atop the leaderboard at any major since he rallied to win the Masters six years ago. He took advantage of kinder conditions Thursday morning to shoot a 66,helped along by a 45-foot eagle putt. But,after making only one bogey in the opening round,he started to find trouble lurking around every pot bunker,the course hardening in weather that looked more like Southern California than Scotland.

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Conditons have made it a lottery: Schwartzel

Former U.S. Masters champion Charl Schwartzel said the British Open had become a “lottery” after he twice belted the ball 400 yards down Muirfield’s oven-baked fairways.

The South African was pleased to play his second round early,before the sun dried the course even more,and carded a three-under-par 68 to put himself in the title frame for the weekend on 143,one over.

“I don’t like it when it starts becoming that much luck,because that’s what it is,” he told reporters before heading back to his hotel to watch the guys “explode” in the afternoon groupings. When it gets this crusty and you’re working on balls bouncing,six-irons going 280 after bouncing at 210,how do you judge that?

“It becomes a bit of a lottery. You don’t know what’s going to happen and you need to be able to play in conditions like we played in this morning,” said Schwartzel. “At 15 I went into a bunker 380 yards away at speed. It’s like hitting down a runway. It’s only going to get harder for the weekend and there will be a couple of holes that are going to get very suspicious. Reuters

After reaching heights,Kapur hits the shallows

After a stunning three-under 68 on Day One of the British Open,Indian golfer Shiv Kapur found the going tough as he shot a six-over 77 in the second round. Kapur,who holed six birdies on a sensational front-nine on Thursday,could manage only two all day on Friday while dropping eight bogeys at a treacherous Muirfield. Kapur’s aggregate of three-over put him at tied 24th at the halfway mark.

In the process,Kapur became only the fourth Indian after Jyoti Randhawa (2004),Anirban Lahiri (2012) and Jeev Milkha Singh (2012) to make the cut at the British Open. Only Jeev has made the cut at the other three Majors,too.

“Today the wind was totally opposite. So when you’re standing on the tees you’re trying go to figure out — it’s a lot of guesswork,” he said.

“For example on the 9th hole today I’ve hit 3-iron off the tee. I’ve hit 3-iron,6-iron. And yesterday I’ve hit driver,2-iron,8-iron,you know. So it’s completely a different golf course,” said Kapur of the conditions.

Yet,instead of simply melting down as many do,Kapur just hung on grimly. He managed birdies on ninth and 12th,but also gave away bogeys on 10th and 13th. But,he was still four-over for the day and one-over for the tournament,when he came to the par-five 17th,but a bogey-bogey finish set him back.

“When you get off to a bad start,you’re just trying to hang on,because there’s not too many birdie opportunities,so to speak,on the back nine,even though the holes playing into the wind played downwind,” he said. “I thought I did a pretty good job after that bad start to hang on for a while. And unfortunately I had the dreaded ‘S’ word (shank) on the 17th with my third shot,” said Kapur.

“I had a wedge in there and I shanked it into the green,and actually did well to make a bogey. A bad drive on 18 meant a finishing bogey. But I felt I did well to hang on and keep the score for 16 holes.”

Kapur was still smiling despite his putter not working. Yesterday,his putter was red hot,but today,it was the opposite. “Yeah,the putter was just not hot. Yesterday you’re holing putts and the game seems easy. I hit a lot of good putts that didn’t really go in. I had a horseshoe out on 13. It came straight back at me,” said Kapur.PTI Leaderboard

1. Miguel Angel Jiminez (71) -3;

T2. Henrik Stenson (70) -2,Lee Westwood (68) -2, Tiger Woods (71) -2,Dustin Johnson (72) -2.

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