Jimenez finds the fun in a tough day at Muirfield, leads at British Open
The biggest name was Woods, already a four-time winner this year who has been steering his way around Muirfield with mainly irons that go forever on the rock-hard fairways. More ominous is that he is making so many important putts, even if they are for par.
"There will be no surprise to me if he's picking up the claret jug on Sunday night," said Graeme McDowell, who played with Woods and was seven shots behind. "But I'm not writing off the rest of the field. There's quality players here in this field, and I'm certainly not writing myself off. But if he continues to play the way he's playing, he's going to be tough to beat."
Westwood surged to the top of the leaderboard with a 31 on the front nine and one more birdie at the 12th, but he dropped three shots on the last six holes. Even so, he gave himself another chance to capture his first major in what already is banner sporting year for England. The last Englishman to win the British Open was Nick Faldo in 1992 at Muirfield.
"Why not enjoy it out there?" Westwood said. "It's tough for everybody. So smile your way through."
Angel Cabrera, among six players who had a share of the lead at one point Friday, dropped five shots over the last three holes for a 72. Even so, he was only two shots behind at 1-under 141 along with Zach Johnson, Martin Laird (71) and Rafael Cabrera-Bello (74).
Only nine players remained under par on a course that is playing to an average of just under 75.
Jordan Spieth, the 19-year-old Texan, was closing in on the lead until a double bogey on the 15th, followed by two more bogeys that dropped him to a 74. That still was enough to put him in the large group at 1-over 143 that included Mickelson, Masters champion Adam Scott, Bubba Watson, Ian Poulter, Charl Schwartzel and Darren Clarke, who has all but vanished since winning the claret jug two years ago at Royal St. George's.
Clarke had a 71 despite a quadruple-bogey.
Most players prefer a firm, fast and fiery golf course. Some of them are starting to feel burned, even Schwartzel, who had a 68.
"I don't like it when it starts becoming that much luck, because that's what it is," Schwartzel said. "Because when it gets this crusty ... with 6-irons going 280 yards, how do you judge that? It becomes a bit of a lottery. You don't know what's going to happen."
There were 23 players separated by only five shots going into the weekend, and 10 of them were major champions.
"I think it's going to be a good test to be able to separate yourself if you're playing well," Mickelson said. "The great thing about tomorrow is that now all the players that are in contention will be on the course at the same time. And that's going to be key."
Some players won't be around at all. U.S. Open champion Justin Rose shot a 77 and missed the cut. Rory McIlroy shot 40 on the front nine to take himself out of the tournament. He had a 75 for another weekend off in what is becoming a long, troublesome year.
Jimenez didn't sound too worked up about the weekend, no matter what was at stake.
"I don't know what's going to happen Sunday afternoon. I don't know what's going to happen tomorrow," Jimenez said. "I'm going to go now. I'm going to hit some balls. And I'm going to have a nice cigar. And when tomorrow is coming, when the sun is coming, I will deal with that then."
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