Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson fired 2-under-par rounds of 69 to trail leader Zach Johnson by three shots entering the second day of golf’s British Open.
Johnson, the 2007 Masters Tournament winner, shot a 5-under-par 66 at Muirfield in Gullane, Scotland, with four birdies and an eagle before his only bogey at the 14th hole. He holds a one-shot lead over fellow American Mark O’Meara, the 1998 Open champion, and Rafael Cabrera-Bello of Spain.
“Any time you shoot under par in an Open, or a major for that matter, you have to be putting at least somewhat decent,” Johnson, one of eight major winners among the 20 golfers under par, said yesterday in a news conference. “I putted great.”
Woods was the last opening-round leader to win the tournament, in 2005. The bookmakers’ favorite to take his first major title since 2008, Woods bogeyed the first hole after hitting a tree with his tee shot.
The 14-time major champion made birdie at No. 4 and bogeyed the sixth. Three birdies over the first four holes on the final nine took him to 2 under before another bogey on 14, when his putt from the front of the sun-baked green rolled off the back. He returned to 2 under with a birdie at 17.
Temperatures of 24 degrees Celsius (75 Fahrenheit) and an increasing wind helped make the course hard and firm in the afternoon.
“As the golf course dried out it got quick,” Woods told reporters. “I mean, I putted the ball off the green today, and it really wasn’t that bad a putt. Anything that goes four feet by, it’s gone. It was tough.”
Mickelson was happy he played in the morning.
“I love the fact that I shot under par, because it’s a very challenging course,” he said.
There’s a 30 percent chance of patchy fog this morning, with temperatures rising to a maximum of 22 degrees Celsius, according to the U.K. Met Office.
Woods begins at 9:44 a.m. local time today and Mickelson tees off at 2:45 p.m., 22 minutes before Johnson starts his second round. The first group teed off at 6:32 a.m.
Johnson was in the clubhouse when Shiv Kapur, a 31-year-old from New Delhi who plays on the Asian Tour, birdied six of the first seven holes before falling back after a double-bogey on the 10th hole and bogey on the 14th. Kapur is joined at 3 under by Spain’s Miguel Angel Jimenez and Americans Brandt Snedeker, Dustin Johnson and Tom Lehman, the 1996 Open champion.
Woods and Mickelson are a shot further back alongside 2004 Open champion Todd Hamilton of the U.S., two-time major winner Angel Cabrera of Argentina and Jordan Spieth, a 19-year-old American who claimed the final place in the field by winning the John Deere Classic over Johnson last weekend.
Rory McIlroy’s struggles continued in a round of 8-over 79. The two-time major winner from Northern Ireland, who is seeking his first victory of the season, made a pair of double-bogeys in shooting a 42 on the final nine holes.
“I wish I could stand up here and tell you guys what’s wrong or what I need to do to make it right, because I feel like I’ve got the shots,” McIlroy told reporters. “It’s just a matter of going through the right thought process to hit them and that’s something that I obviously haven’t been doing recently.”
McIlroy’s score was his second worst at the Open, one shot behind the 80 he had in gusting winds during the second round at St. Andrews in 2010.
Defending champion Ernie Els of South Africa shot a 3-over-par 74, while U.S. Open winner Justin Rose of England had a 75. Masters champion Adam Scott of Australia shot an even-par 71.
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