Golf Course WebsitesGolfRevText Golfer

Jimenez Now in Front at Open Championship


Miguel Angel Jimenez shot an even-par 71 to take a one-stroke lead in the Open Championship. The 142nd playing of golf's oldest tournament is being held at Muirfield in Scotland.

The Spaniard - known for his long hair and love of cigars and wine - opened with a five-birdie-two bogey 68. On Friday, the 49-year-old posted two birdies and a like number of bogeys to reach 3-under 139, a shot ahead of four players.

Although he's never won a major championship, Jimenez has 19 European Tour titles, with his most recent last November in the Hong Kong Open. He's also had some previous success in the Open Championship, recording three top-10s, including a tie for second in 1991 and a T9 last year.

The Malaga native likes his position heading into the weekend. "It's much better to feel when you were on the top of the leaderboard than when you were somewhere else on the leaderboard, no? Obviously it's much nice, no? Been playing very well," he said. "Feeling solid and consistent on the golf course. This condition is tough. The golf course is very hard. Some of the positions, the pin positions, they are very tough. And then of course even when you play well, you're going to miss some greens, you're going to miss some fairways.

"But the game at the moment is consistent - all parts of the game. I made some recoveries. Only two birdies, made two bogeys. As I said before, sometimes it's not about to make to many birdies, it's about not to make bogeys. To play the golf course in this condition, that's one of the keys."

Sharing second at 138 are three-time British Open champion Tiger Woods, who shot a 71, Sweden's Henrik Stenson (70), England's Lee Westwood (68) and Dustin Johnson (72).

No. 1-ranked Woods carded three birdies and three bogeys, managing to shoot even-par on a windswept golf course that continues to play hard and fast. "It was difficult out there today," he told reporters. "The wind obviously is a completely different direction than it was yesterday. On top of that we've had quite a bit of moisture on the greens overnight. We actually made a couple of ball marks early. It obviously changed a lot as we were playing along.

"Our last four holes - our last five holes, it got awfully quick. But one thing that (playing partner Graeme McDowell) and I were both talking about today is we never got an uphill putt to the hole. We were really struggling with that, they were so much slower than yesterday. But coming down the hills, they're running out still."

Westwood is another heralded European with many victories (22) on the Continent, but who's never won a Grand Slam title. He's come as close as second (2010), third (2009) and fourth (2004) in the Open Championship, but the 40-year-old has never quite closed the deal en route to being labeled "one of the best players to never have won a major."

Maybe this is the week he can do that, and Westwood seems to have the right attitude. "I love playing the Open Championship," he told reporters. "This is the biggest tournament of the year for me, being a Brit, and it being played in Britain. And why not enjoy it out there? It's tough for everybody. So smile your way through."

After a tie for second in 2011 behind winner Darren Clarke and a T9 last year, Johnson is also in position for his first major. So far so good for the long-hitting South Carolinian. "I played really good golf," he said. "I hit a lot of great shots. Just struggled on the greens a little bit. So I'm going to work on that for a little while. And then playing in the afternoon, the course dries out and it gets really fast. So it's a really solid round."

Stenson offset a double-bogey on the par-4 sixth and two bogeys with four birdies for his second straight 70. He, like many players this week, has been bamboozled by the ever-changing conditions at Murfield. "I think the course played quite a bit differently with the wind direction changing from yesterday," the 37-year-old said. "They put water on the greens, speed-wise a little bit slower, and you could see that in our group, and quite a few other groups that were a bit more cautious coming up from yesterday, and we left a few putts short.

"I expect it to dry out again in the afternoon and anybody wants to see three-putts or four-putts, head down to 15," added the seven-time European Tour winner and two-time winner on the PGA Tour. "That's going to be a nightmare in the afternoon, if it keeps getting drier."

After opening with a 66 to take the first-round lead, Zach Johnson shot a 75 to drop into a share of sixth at 1-under 141. The Iowa native had four birdies, an eagle and a bogey Thursday, but four birdies couldn't offset some errant tee shots that led to six bogeys and a double in the second round.

Johnson admitted that Friday was tough. "It was a grind. It was a grind from the first shot to my last 3-, 4-footer, whatever it was, on 18," he said. "Just trying to pick the right club, trying to pick the right target, with the right shot was very difficult. You don't want to over-think it, so you've got that going through your mind as well. And truly, I mean, for the most part the entire day I'm trying to two-putt from 15 feet and beyond.

"You're just trying to pick the proper line, very conservative, play the wind on the putts, especially the last, I'd say the back nine in general. There's not many pins you can get at. So if you make a putt, you just go to the next tee, you just get out of there."

Also at 141 are Scotland's Martin Laird (71), Spain's Rafael Cabrera-Bello (74) and Argentina's Angel Cabrera (72). As the leading Scot heading into the final round, Laird expects to receive continued cheer from the partisan gallery. "I think it will help me more than hurt me. I probably have higher expectations for myself than everyone in the crowd," he said.

"It's not something I'm really worried about. You can only look at it as something that can help up you. They can pull you along. Even as I was struggling, you hear people shouting 'Come on!' and giving you support, and that's only a good thing."

Three behind Jimenez is Ryan Moore (70), while four back are Jordan Spieth (74), Northern Ireland's Clarke (71), South African Charl Schwartzel (68), Aussie Adam Scott (72), 2012 U.S. Open champion Webb Simpson (70), Italy's Francesco Molinari (74), 2012 Masters winner Bubba Watson (73), England's Ian Poulter (71) and four-time major winner Phil Mickelson (74).

Spieth, who became the fourth-youngest winner in PGA Tour history when he emerged atop a five-hole sudden-playoff at the John Deere Classic, is soaking in the atmosphere of the 2013 Open Championship. "Oh, it's great," said the Dallas native, who turns 20 on July 27. "I mean (my caddie) and I were talking throughout the round about how cool the crowds are, the grandstands are just phenomenal here, more than any other tournament they're 25 to 50 rows high, and just as wide.

"So it's fun. Everybody just absolutely loves golf over here, more so than I think anywhere else in the world. It's cool to be at the home. And I'm looking forward to a fun weekend, more people coming out."

Mickelson, who said Thursday that the championship's overseers, the R&A, exerted their "ego" in making Muirfield play unreasonably difficult, carded three birdies, two bogeys and a pair of doubles in the second round.

On Friday, Mickelson backtracked on his remarks from the day before. "When I made those comments yesterday, I wasn't being totally fair to the R&A, because they've done a lot of things great this championship. The fairway width is a very fair width to get the ball in play. The rough is difficult and challenging but it's not over the top. It's very fair in spots. And the setup has been great. And for me to single out just a few sketchy pin placements and not give them credit for all the good things they've done was not fair of me yesterday.

"But I think that it is set up where if you're playing well, you can make up some ground and separate yourself. I think that really solidly struck shots are giving you easy pars and potential birdies. And poorly struck shots are making it extremely difficult to salvage par. So I think that it's going to be a good test to be able to separate yourself, if you're playing well. The great thing about tomorrow is that now all the players that are in contention will be on the course at the same time. And that's going to be the key."

The 36-hole cut was established at 8-over 150. Among those qualifying for the weekend are defending champion Ernie Els, who recorded his second consecutive 74, and previous Claret Jug winners McDowell (rounds of 75 and 71), Justin Leonard (74, 70), Mark O'Meara (67, 78), Tom Lehman (68, 77), Stewart Cink (72, 75), Sandy Lyle (76, 72), Padraig Harrington (73, 75) and Paul Lawrie (81, 69).

Not so fortunate are former Open champions Mark Calcavecchia, Tom Watson, David Duval and Nick Faldo.

Also missing the cut are Kyle Stanley, who almost overcame an opening 82 with a 69, Bill Haas, Luke Donald, 2013 U.S. Open champion Justin Rose and No. 2-ranked Rory McIlroy.

McIlroy, who started with a 79, posted a 75 Friday to miss his first cut in six Open Championship starts. The 24-year-old Northern Irishman told reporters later that his second round was "a little better," adding, "I needed to get off to a fast start to have any chance of being here for the weekend. I was 5-over through seven holes, so that didn't really happen. But after that I just decided to try and - I guess practice a little bit for the next few weeks coming up.

"And I decided that I was going to hit driver every hole that I could, because that's going to be a big factor the next few weeks, and I actually drove the ball pretty well, and ended up playing the last 11 holes under par. That was encouraging, but obviously I'm disappointed to be going home for the weekend. It's the first time I've missed a cut at the Open, so it's obviously quite disappointing."

Although he was playing his first competitive rounds since the 2010 Open Championship at St. Andrews, Faldo was also unhappy to not make the cut. "The hardest thing about this game is nobody gives you this," said the three-time Open winner, with two of those coming at Muirfield.

"You could miss every single one," added Faldo, who turned 56 Thursday. "That's the toughest thing. You have to just keep grinding, because if you don't do the process, you will miss it. But I had some good shots. I made 3 at 10. And a couple of good chip-and-runs here and there. And belted a couple of good 3-woods. So all in all I'm quite pleased with it."

For all the scores, visit http://www.majorschampionships.com/open-championship/leaderboard.html.