Hard and fast rules as players struggle at British Open
Woods, Westwood and Stenson share clubhouse lead in testing conditions at Muirfield
Tiger Woods of the US watches his tee shot on the 16th hole. Photograph: Toby Melville/Reuters
Darren Clarke fails to get his ball out of the bunker on the 6th hole during the second round of the British Open. Photograph: Rob Carr/Getty Images
KJ Choi plays his tee shot through the haze on the fifth hole at Muirfield. Photograph: Russell Cheyne/Reuters
Two players seeking a first major title and one searching for his 15th were today enjoying — in every sense of the word — the clubhouse lead in the British Open. Henrik Stenson, third at Birkdale in 2008 and at St Andrews in 2010, carded a second consecutive 70 at a fiery Muirfield to post a target of two under par that was matched 30 minutes later by Lee Westwood.
Another 40 minutes later they were joined by world number one Tiger Woods, who birdied the 18th to return a 71 that boosts his hopes of ending a five-year winless streak in major championships. And all three players were then happy to sit back and watch the afternoon starters attempt to beat their totals as the course dried out by the minute.
Westwood had reached five under when he raced to the turn in 31 and then birdied the 12th, but even dropping three shots in his last six holes could not dampen the 40-year-old’s mood after a 68.
“It’s a major and I love playing the Open Championship,” said Westwood, who recently enlisted the help of Woods’ coach Sean Foley on his long game and 1991 British Open champion Ian Baker-Finch on his putting. “It’s the biggest event of the year for me. Why not enjoy it out there? It’s tough for everybody so smile your way through it.
“I thought one over would be right in contention so to be two under is a real bonus and it could be leading at the end of the day. The greens were a little softer this morning. I repaired a pitch mark on the second and third but that was about it as far as that was concerned. They started to firm up pretty quickly.
“I was pleased to be six under through 12. I was playing some great stuff and it was just getting harder as the holes progressed. The golf course got really difficult and the finish is tough as 16, 17 and 18 are playing hard. I’ll kick back this afternoon on the couch and watch some struggles and the cricket.”
Woods, whose last major title came in the 2008 US Open, carded two birdies in his first five holes but then had to wait until the last for another after dropping shots at the eighth and 11th. “I’m in a good spot. I’m tied for the clubhouse lead,” the 37-year-old said.
“I’ve just got to continue plodding along, continue just being patient, putting the ball in the right spots. We’re not going to get a lot of opportunities out there but when I have I’ve been able to capitalise and hopefully I can continue doing that.”