Tiger Woods still in mix after 71
GULLANE, Scotland -- Tiger Woods survived an increasingly treacherous Muirfield on Friday, holing a number of key par putts -- while also missing two short ones -- to shoot even-par 71 and move into a second-place tie at the Open Championship.
As was the case with many players during the second round, Woods had difficulty getting the ball close to the hole on greens that are even more baked out and firm, but he holed a 12-footer for a birdie at the 18th. Miguel Angel Jimenez (71) leads at 3 under, 1 ahead of Woods, Henrik Stenson, Lee Westwood and Dustin Johnson.
"I'm in a good spot," Woods said. "These guys have to go out this afternoon and obviously play a golf course that's quick, and it's drying out and with a different wind. So it will be tough out there."
Woods, with a 2-under 140 total, was never in trouble off the tee Friday, which speaks to the difficulty of the course and the precision necessary to have birdie chances. He got two early birdies in his round -- at the par-4 third and the par-5 fifth -- but also had two bogeys on the front side when he needed three strokes with the putter, missing par putts of 3 feet.
He failed to birdie the par-5 ninth and bogeyed the 11th but made remarkable par saves at the 10th, 13th and 14th holes. He failed to birdie the par-5 17th but gave a big fist pump when he got his birdie putt to drop on 18, one that likely will keep him right in the mix.
"It was difficult out there today," Woods said. "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 [because of light watering]. 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."
Playing with Graeme McDowell, Woods said both players had difficulty getting uphill putts to the hole. The greens were slower than Thursday afternoon, which caused difficulty with the numerous lag putts.
Nonetheless, Woods' ballstriking was solid, as he missed just three fairways and hit 12 of 18 greens for the second straight day. Through two rounds, he has yet to hit a driver, joking afterward that he had hit "8 or 10 -- on the range."
"He was very, very impressive the last two days," said McDowell, who is at 146, 4-over par. "He will not be far away this weekend the way he's playing. Iron play, the flight control that he has in his irons, he just hits the shot that you're supposed to hit at all times. He plays the golf course very conservatively, which I expected him to do because I'm not sure there's a better iron player in the world.
"It's incredible how well he controls his ball flight. And he's putting exceptionally well. I lost count of how many 8-, 10-, 15-footers he's made for par over the last two days.
"There will be no surprise to me if he's picking up the Claret Jug on Sunday night."
Now comes the weekend, where Woods promises to be in one of the final groups on Saturday afternoon.
Woods, 37, has gone more than five years without winning a major championship since he captured his 14th at the U.S. Open in 2008. He led through 54 holes at the 2009 PGA Championship but was beaten by Y.E. Yang.
Since the start of 2012, in the previous six majors, Woods is a combined 11 under par in the first two rounds but 19 over combined in Rounds 3 and 4.
"You continue playing, continue putting myself there," he said. "I'm not going to win every major I play in, but certainly I can try and put myself there. If I give myself enough opportunities, I'll get my share, and I think I have so far in my career."
As for the remaining 36 holes, Woods expects plenty of difficulty.
"It's one of those things where it's changed daily," he said. "The practice rounds, I played early, and there are quite a few ball marks out there. Then we get out there yesterday where there's nothing. And hitting 6-irons in a couple of holes that were going 275, 280. Today I hit a sand wedge about 180 on one of the holes out there.
"It's what this golf course does. It's so quick. It depends on where you land, on what side of the slope. Is it on the backside or the front side, and that determines a lot how far the ball is going to go. It's going to be a big test."