Miguel Angel Jimenez leads British Open; Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson in contention

Tiger Woods plays a shot off the third

Tiger Woods plays a shot off the third tee during the second round of the British Open Golf Championship at Muirfield, Scotland. (July 19, 2013) (Credit: AP)

GULLANE, Scotland - Tiger Woods sensed what was coming. So did Lee Westwood. They were early finishers Friday in the second round of a British Open in which a bright sun and an east wind turned Muirfield into a curse as much as a course.

"The guys who have to go out this afternoon," Woods pointed out correctly, "it will be tough out there."

Westwood, the Englishman, said, "I'm going to kick back this afternoon and watch some struggles, and the cricket."

Some struggles: Zach Johnson went from 5 under for the tournament on the 13th hole to 2 under on the 15th and came in 1 under after a 75.

Phil Mickelson four-putted the par-3 16th and dropped from 1 under to 1 over, ending up at 143.

Brandt Snedeker had a triple bogey and three double bogeys. Shooting 8-over 79, he crashed from 3 under to 5 over.

It took a 49-year-old, potbellied, cigar-smoking, pony-tailed Spaniard, Miguel Angel Jimenez, to restore some order. Although Jimenez had only an even-par 71, it was enough for a 36-hole total of 3-under-par 139 and a one-shot lead

"It's nice, no?" was Jimenez's observation. "Been playing well. Been feeling solid. This condition is tough. The golf course is very hard . . . Only two birdies, but it's [all about] not to make bogeys."

Tied for second at 2-under 140 were Woods, who correctly predicted after his 71, "I'm in a good spot"; Westwood, who had a 68 despite bogeying three of his final six holes; Dustin Johnson, 72, and Henrik Stenson, 70.

At 141, two shots back, are Zach Johnson, who began the round in first and was there as late as 13; Angel Cabrera, in front heading into the back nine; Rafael Cabrera Bello and Martin Laird.

"I hadn't seen that wind," Zach Johnson said. "That would be the big thing. I was accustomed to the west wind . . . It was a grind from the first shot to my last. You expect every major championship to be humbling. To be honest with you, I played pretty good today."

Woods, searching for his first major victory since the 2008 U.S. Open, is in excellent position, but in his last few majors, he hasn't played well in the third and fourth rounds.

"I haven't won," he agreed. "I've had my chances."

Mickelson, retreating from criticism of the course setup Thursday, said, "If you're playing well, you can make up some ground and be playing well. But poorly struck shots are making it difficult to salvage par."

The cut was an unusually high 8-over 150, and among those making it were three from the Champions Tour: 53-year-old Fred Couples (149), 54-year-old Tom Lehman (145) and 56-year-old Mark O'Meara (145).

Defending champ Ernie Els (148) also qualified for the last two rounds. But at 12-over 154, a cumulative 28 over for his 10 rounds in the majors this year, Rory McIlroy failed.

Darren Clarke followed birdies on three, four and five with a quadruple-bogey 8 on six. He still had a 71 for 143.

Said Els, "It's a pretty tough battle out there."

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