Jimenez leads Open by 1 shot
GULLANE, Scotland -- Sunshine and shorts are a rare combination in Scotland, and they aren't big here on convertibles, tans and air conditioning either.
But this has been a glorious week along the Firth of Forth, a beautiful setting for the Open Championship.
So why are there so many frustrated golfers? Shirt sleeves and pleasant breezes don't equate to happiness, certainly not at Muirfield, which has been at its beastly best despite the balminess.
"The golf course is going to get nothing but tougher and tougher," Graeme McDowell said.
Spain's Miguel Angel Jimenez, who at 49 would be the oldest major champion in history and earlier this year broke his leg skiing, emerged as the 36-hole leader after several others couldn't get to the Muirfield clubhouse without their own accidents.
Jimenez' even-par 71 gave him a 3-under 139 total through 36 holes.
And look who is just a shot back? Tiger Woods, who birdied the final hole to shoot a 71 and cap his own day of frustrations, heads into the weekend with another chance to add to his major championship victory pile of 14.
"I'm in a good spot," he said.
Muirfield is living up to its reputation as a venue that requires precision over power, with solid ballstriking in tricky conditions and on rough links terrain the ultimate difference-maker. Only four players shot in the 60s on Friday, with 14 players in the 80s, including Scott Piercy, the defending champion of next week's Canadian Open, who shot an 88.
The 36-hole cut came at 8-over 150, the highest at an Open Championship since 1972 at Muirfield, when it was 10 over. No. 2-ranked Rory McIlroy (79-75) is among those who will miss the weekend.
"It's fun in a sick way," said Ian Poulter, who was critical of the course setup Thursday but finds himself tied for 11th at 1 over, four shots behind Jimenez. "You've got to suck it up, I guess. It's the same for everybody. And unfortunately, you've got to grind through it. You don't have another option if you want to win the tournament. Then you've just got to press on, just keep your head down and go on through it."
Lee Westwood, bidding to become the first Englishman to win the Open since Nick Faldo in 1992, matched the day's best score, a 3-under 68 that was completed early in the day. He is tied with Woods, Sweden's Henrik Stenson and Dustin Johnson at 2-under 140.
First-round leader Zach Johnson shot a 75 and dropped to 1 under but is still just two shots off the lead, tied with Scotland's Martin Laird, two-time major champion Angel Cabrera of Argentina and Spain's Rafael Cabrera-Bello.
Phil Mickelson shot a 74 to join Poulter, among others, at 1 over.
Just nine players are under par, and there were plenty of horror stories. Mickelson made two double-bogeys in his round of 74. Brandt Snedeker followed an opening 68 with a 79 that included a four-putt triple-bogey. Former Open champion Todd Hamilton shot an 81 after an opening 69. Nicolas Colsaerts five-putted the 15th green for a 9.
The scoring average was 75.3.
"It's a links golf course; it's what you're going to get," defending champion Ernie Els said. "It's firm. It's brown. It's bouncing all over the place. It's tough to control your ball. It's a pretty tough battle out there."
Woods managed to avoid most of those pitfalls, making two of his three bogeys by three-putting. He maneuvered his way around the course, staying conservative off the tee and never getting in trouble. Through two rounds, he has yet to hit a driver, and the kind of conditions he faces at Muirfield are not far from those he conquered seven years ago at Royal Liverpool, where he claimed the last of his three Open titles.
"Just continue plodding along," said Woods, who has won four times this year on the PGA Tour but has not captured a major since the 2008 U.S. Open. "Just continue being patient, putting the ball in the right spots. We're not going to get a lot of opportunities out there, but when I have, I've been able to capitalize, and hopefully I can continue doing that."
Jimenez is not at the stage in his career where he can be patient. At 49, he would surpass Julius Boros as the oldest major champion. A 19-time winner on the European Tour and a popular figure known for fast cars, cigars and wine as much as his golf game, Jimenez is enjoying the view from on top.
"It would be very nice," he said about the possibility of getting his first major at this stage of his career. "I've been 25 years on the tour, 19 victories, and I would love to have a major in my career, of course. Why not this one? I would love it. It's amazing, you know?"
Sort of like the Scottish weather, on a weeklong winning streak but not making the pursuit of the Claret Jug any easier.