‘Big three’ move up to challenge Woods

The last two British Open champions were unknown Americans. This time, plenty of big names are positioned for a run at the claret jug.
Tiger Woods was at the top of the list, of course, building on his first-round lead.
But the world’s top-ranked player was hardly alone. Vijay Singh pulled into a short-lived tie with Woods before the leader teed off today. Sergio Garcia, Ernie Els and Phil Mickelson gave themselves hope heading to the weekend.
John Daly and Fred Couples were hanging around, too.
No one would mistake anyone in that group for Ben Curtis (the 2003 Open champion) or Todd Hamilton (last year’s winner).
“I need to go pretty low on Saturday to get in contention,” said Mickelson, who was at three-under 141 at the midway point. “I’m not quite in contention yet.”
Jack Nicklaus wasn’t a contender, but he hoped to make it to the weekend in his 164th—and final—major. The Golden Bear had the gallery roaring when he birdied the 10th to reach one-under for the day.
Nicklaus had a lot of work to do, coming off a three-over 75 yesterday. But everyone seemed to be pulling for one of those trademark charges—even if it’s only Friday.
Singh shot his second-straight 69 and could have gone lower, missing several good birdie opportunities. But he managed to avoid any bogeys—walking off the course in a four-way tie for the lead.
“I’m very disappointed with the way I scored,” Singh said. “I left a lot of shots out there.”
Mike Weir of Bright’s Grove, Ont. had another rough day at the office and will watch the rest of the way. The left-hander, who was four-over after the first round, dropped three more strokes today with six bogeys and three birdies.
He salvaged a shot with a birdie at the 18th for a round of three-over 75 and a two-round total of 151.
Meanwhile, Calgary’s Stephen Ames birdied Nos. 5, 8, and 9 to improve to one-over through nine holes.
Woods, who opened with a 66 yesterday, teed off in the afternoon and didn’t waste any time reclaiming the lead. Birdies at Nos. 3 and 5 pushed his score to eight-under.
Garcia shot 69 earlier today to take a 139 into the weekend. He was hoping the wind picked up in the afternoon, so Woods couldn’t run away from the field as he did in 2000 on the way to a record-setting, eight-stroke victory at St. Andrews.
“If I can be somewhere around four or five shots off the lead going to the weekend, that wouldn’t be a bad thing,” the Spaniard said. “I feel good about my game.
“Hopefully, I can get into it.”
Els and Mickelson matched each other virtually shot-for-shot, following up 74s with 67s today that left them at 141—and hopeful of turning the weekend into a high-stakes shootout involving a who’s who of golf.
It wasn’t all prominent names near the top. Trevor Immelman, a South African who plays on the European Tour, shot 70 today to match Singh and Brad Faxon for the clubhouse lead at 138.
Conditions were favourable at the Old Course—the sun peaked through the clouds and there was only a light breeze rustling along the Scottish seaside.
All the golfers had to do was stay away from the 112 bunkers that served as a second line of defence at St. Andrews—the birthplace of golf.