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 Muirfields 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. Im playing very solid, he said. In these conditions,its not easy. With these pin positions,its 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. Hell 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. Hes 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 Jimenezs 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. Hes 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 werent 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 continued…