Snedeker ties record, but Scott, Woods are not far behind

By Doug Ferguson

Associated Press

Published: Friday, July 20 2012 8:19 p.m. MDT

Woods mapped out a strategy for navigating the bunkers of Royal Lytham, and not even a change in the weather — only a breath of wind — will take him away from that. He has hit driver only three times this week. On the par-5 11th, where several players hit driver for a chance to go for the green in two, Woods laid back with an iron. He pulled it into the rough, and it cost him. Woods had to get up-and-down from behind the green for a bogey.

That was his lone mistake, however. He holed an 18-foot birdie on the 16th hole, and then fooled by what little wind there was on the 18th, recovered by holing out from the greenside bunker with a shot that rolled into the cup for his second straight 67 and a 6-under 134.

"It wasn't as hard as it may have looked," Woods said. "Because I was on the up slope, I could take out that steepness coming off the bunker and land the ball on the flat. So just threw it up there, and I played about a cup outside the left and it landed on my spot and rolled to the right."

Woods will find out if his record in the majors still means anything. This was the eighth time he has opened a major with two rounds in the 60s, and he went on to win on the seven previous occasions — including all three of his Open titles.

He will be in the penultimate group with Thorbjorn Olesen, a 22-year-old Dane who won for the first time this year on the European Tour. He closed with two birdies, knowing that the last one would give him a 66 and a chance to meet Woods on a Saturday afternoon at golf's oldest championship.

"That was amazing," Olesen said. "He's been my idol in so many years. So it's fantastic to have a chance to play with him. And I'm certainly looking forward to it."

The rest of the field would love nothing more than for the wind to show up.

The forecast, which cannot be trusted in these parts, is for mostly sunny skies and perhaps enough wind to fly a kite on the shoreline of the Irish Sea. The blustery conditions are to arrive Sunday, which would make all those bunkers and the high grass even tougher to avoid and possibly allow others to get into the mix.

Paul Lawrie, who came from 10 shots behind on the final day at Carnoustie in 1999 to win the claret jug, overcame two double bogeys to salvage a 71 and was in the group at 4-under 136 that included Graeme McDowell (69), Matt Kuchar (67), Jason Dufner (66) and Thomas Aiken (68).

"The forecasts I've seen so far have all been wrong," Kuchar said. "So I don't put a whole lot of stock in what's coming. I think all of us would like to see some more British Open-like conditions. I think everybody would like to have a little bit more wind just to test us a little bit more out here."

Ernie Els squandered some chances by missing a few short putts on the back nine, though he still carved out a 70 and was at 137.

Luke Donald's day stated early, and not just with his tee time. His caddie, John McLaren, called to say his pregnant wife was due any minute. No matter. He used Gareth Lord — almost on the bag at Disney last year when Donald won to capture the PGA Tour money title — and he had a 68 to join the list at 2-under 138.

Rory McIlroy bought a hotel room and gave some spending cash to the 16-year-old who was hit in the head by his errant tee shot on Thursday. The teenager watched on Friday as McIlroy only hurt himself. He took two shots to get out of a bunker on the par-3 ninth for a double bogey, had to play sideways out of a water-filled bunker on the 17th and wound up with a 75 to fall 12 shots behind.

The cut was at 3-over 143 — the 13-shot separation speaks to how well Snedeker played. Phil Mickelson never had a chance, taking three double bogeys for a 78 to end his streak of 18 consecutive cuts in the majors that dates to Carnoustie five years ago.

Tom Watson, 62, extended his record as the oldest player to make the cut in the Open by holing a 35-foot birdie putt on the final hole.

It was a fitting end to the day.

Snedeker idolized Watson growing up, and he has just enough freckles under that strawberry-blond mop to resemble the five-time Open champion. He has learned to accept the odd bounces and embrace the Open beyond the links, hanging out in the pubs and appreciating the locals' love of golf.

As for their games? Snedeker doesn't hit the ball on the button the way Watson does — not many do.

"I would love to be like him," Snedeker said. "We both make pretty quick decisions. There's no hold-back in either one of our swings. He's one of the best ball strikers of all time. I am not, by any stretch of the imagination. But I think we both hole a lot of putts. Tom in his prime holed a lot of 25- and 30-footers. And when I'm playing well, I tend to do that a lot, too."

British Open

At Lytham St. Annes, England

Third round today

TV: ESPN, 5 a.m.

Final round Sunday

TV: ESPN, 6 a.m.

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