Spain’s Miguel Angel Jimenez, 49 years old and not quite recovered from a broken leg suffered while skiing, yesterday was the surprise leader at the halfway stage of the British Open golf championship being played at Muirfield in Scotland.
The pony-tailed and cigar-puffing Jimenez, a regular visitor to the Nedbank Golf Challenge at Sun City, added a careful level par round of 71 to his opening round of 68 for a total of 139 (three under par) to lead by a single shot from a formidable group of four players – Sweden’s Henrik Stenson, England’s Lee Westwood and the Americans Tiger Woods and Dustin Johnson.
Stenson is the current South African Open champion.
Overnight leader Zach Johnson and Angel Cabrera missed joining the log-jam behind Jimenez by dropping shots.
On a day that the swirling winds off the Firth of Forth, the hard and uneven terrain of the course and the speed of the greens took a heavy toll on the world’s best players there were many complaints that the set-up of the course was too difficult in spite of the organisers, the R&A, having agreed to heed appeals by watering the greens overnight.
In the midst of one the hottest spells in memory in Britain only South Africa’s Charl Schwartzel and England’s Lee Westwood, broke 70 with rounds of 68 and significantly they played during the morning when lingering overnight dew made conditions easier.
Schwartzel’s three-under-par round rocketed him up the leader board and he qualified for the final two rounds along with compatriots Branden Grace, George Coetzee, Tim Clark, Richard Sterne and defending champion Ernie Els.
Els came close to missing out on being around for the weekend by dropping shots at his last two holes but eventually made it two strokes inside the cut line of eight over par.
Dropped shots over the closing holes as the players became weary from battling the tricky conditions in the endless day (the sun does not set until after 11pm in summer in Scotland) came as a boon to some as the cut-off line moved to eight over par – the like of former champions Paul Lawrie and Todd Hamilton and South Africa’s Sterne suddenly finding themselves back in the tournament rather than having to pack their bags.
The big disappointment was Northern Ireland’s “wunderkind” Rory McIlroy who continued his puzzling slump by carding rounds of 79, 75 to miss by a mile.
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