GULLANE, Scotland (AP) — Another sunny day along the Scottish coast. Another perilous test on the links of Muirfield.
With first-round leader Zach Johnson still waiting to tee off Friday in the second round of the British Open, it was tough for anyone to make much of a charge.
This was more about surviving.
Lee Westwood was one of the few morning starters 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 3-under 68.
Still, that was enough to move him into contention for his first major title. As Westwood walked toward the clubhouse for a bite of lunch, he was at 2-under 140 overall, just three strokes off Johnson’s 5-under 66 from Day 1.
The last English golfer to win the British Open was Nick Faldo in 1992.
Tiger Woods was trying to break a drought of his own. He’s 0-for-20 at majors since the 2008 U.S. Open. Despite missing a couple of short putts, including a 30-incher that lipped out of the cup at the fourth, Woods was plodding along at 1 over for the round with a couple of holes to play.
That kept him solidly in the mix after an opening 69.
The weather has been unseasonably warm and dry, the fearsome wind not much more than a gentle breeze, and it was expected to stay that way through the weekend. Even so, there weren’t many chances for going low, not on a rock-hard course that is more brown than green, with pin conditions that some players complained were downright unfair.
Even though he started with a 69, Phil Mickelson was concerned about some hole locations being too close to the edge of slopes. He pleaded with the Royal & Ancient to let go of its ego and “just set the course up the way the best players can win.”
Mark O’Meara, the 1998 Open champion, countered that he’s played in much tougher conditions, perhaps emboldened by a surprising 67 that left him just one stroke behind Johnson. But the course bit back Friday, sending the 56-year-old tumbling out of contention. He lost his ball at No. 6, leading to a double-bogey, and stumbled to the finish with a 78.
“It’s pretty simple: If you don’t hit it good in an Open championship with the rough the way it is out there, you’re going to make some bogeys,” O’Meara said. “The short game is key. You have to putt well. I did none of those well.”
O’Meara wasn’t the only old-timer to fall back. Fifty-four-year-old Tom Lehman followed a 68 Thursday with a 77 less than 24 hours later.
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.
Spieth conceded that he got a little bored making all those pars.
“Yesterday, I was for some reason extremely patient with just taking my 30-footers and just trying to give myself tap-ins and not worrying about making birdies,” he said. “Today I finally got to a point where I had enough and wanted to really hit it closer. And that’s what happens when you try.”
Darren Clarke, the surprise Open champion in 2011 but mostly an afterthought since then, had no trouble making birdies on the front side. He rolled in four of them. Unfortunately for him, all that good work was wiped out by one bad hole — a quadruple-bogey 8 at the sixth. He finished with a 71 and also was at 143.
Johnson, who had one of the final tee times, 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. He made only one bogey despite trouble lurking around every pot bunker.
Mickelson also was teeing off in afternoon. The other late starters included Rafael Cabrera-Bello (67), Miguel Angel Jimenez (68), Brant Snedeker (68) and Dustin Johnson (68).
As for Rory McIlroy, it doesn’t seem to matter when he plays. He struggled to a 79 in the opening round. The former No. 1 player in the world has been in a baffling slump since his runaway victory at last year’s PGA Championship, and it looked as though he’ll be spending another weekend at home.
Ditto for Luke Donald, who also spent time at the top of the world rankings. He won’t be moving up after this performance — a dismal 80 in the opening round followed by a mediocre 73, leaving him with a 10-over total that gave him no chance of making the cut.
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