x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Conditions worsen at British Open

With the weather taking a bad turn as Spain's Jimenez leads by a single stroke, after sinking a 66-foot birdie putt.

Mike Weir of Canada takes a shot from the fourth tee during the second round.
Mike Weir of Canada takes a shot from the fourth tee during the second round.

After the tournament opened with pristine conditions, the weather for the British Open at Turnberry was more ominous today as the second round began with Miguel Angel Jimenez leading by one stroke. The skies were gray, a light drizzle was falling and it was cooler than a day earlier, when Spain's Jimenez opened with a 6-under 64 that was just one stroke off the record for a major championship. He led from former champions Tom Watson and Ben Curtis, plus Japan's Kenichi Kuboya. There wasn't much of a breeze for the early starters, but forecasters said there could be gusts up to 48 kph by the afternoon.

Tiger Woods failed to take advantage of the unusually good conditions on Thursday, struggling to a 71 that he knew should have been better. The world's No 1 player had as many thrown clubs as birdies (three each) and headed straight to the practice range to work on his swing. While Jimenez claimed the lead with a 66-foot birdie putt at the 18th hole, Watson was the star of the opening day. The 59-year-old, five-time Open champion put together a bogey-free round and was at the top of the leaderboard for most of the round until he was passed by Jimenez and equaled by Curtis and Kuboya.

"There's certain shots on the golf course that I remember how to play," Watson said. Even Jimenez, a ponytailed, cigar-smoking Spaniard known affectionately as "the Mechanic," deferred to the old-timer trailing him by a stroke. "What a legend," Jimenez said. Curtis is still remembered as the guy who stunningly won the Open on his first try in 2003 while ranked No. 396 in the world. But, after top-10 finishes the last two years and a strong start at Turnberry, he's shown he's more than just a journeyman who got lucky one weekend.

Curtis kept it going at the first hole Friday, starting with a birdie that pushed him into a tie for the lead with Jimenez. The Spaniard also had a morning tee time. Watson and Woods will be at the center of attention in the afternoon. Watson is representing the geriatric set, perhaps inspired by Greg Norman's performance at Birkdale a year ago. The Shark held the 54-hole lead at age 53, only to fade on the final day.

Watson turns 60 in September and would be the oldest major champion in golf history by more than a decade if he could somehow keep it going for another three rounds. Woods, on the other hand, came into this week as an overwhelming favorite but is facing the largest 18-hole deficit of his Open career. He should have been at least two or three strokes better on Thursday, when a staggering 50 players broke par and another 17 matched it.

While Woods has missed only one major cut as a professional - the U.S. Open following the death of his father - he was closer to those who'll be fretting about making it to the weekend than he was to the lead. Among those in dire straits: Rising American star Anthony Kim, who took a 9 at one hole, hit in a burn on another and struggled to an opening 73, and Norman, who failed to follow up last year's remarkable showing. The Australian started with a 77 and needed a remarkable comeback just to hang around.

* AP