2013 British Open: Tiger Woods struggles with putter, matches Lee Westwood at 2-under

Andy Lyons

It was a busy morning at Muirfield, where Tiger Woods hung on for an even-par round and Lee Westwood jumped up into the top 10.

The second round morning session at the British Open is coming to a close, with Muirfield once again winning the battle against the best players in the world. Tiger Woods is tied with Lee Westwood for the 36-hole clubhouse lead at 2-under, but some shaky putting prevented a charge up the board at leader Zach Johnson. With conditions getting tougher by the minute however, Johnson, and Phil Mickelson, may be coming back to the pack as the afternoon groups get out on the course. Here's what you missed while you were sleeping:

Tiger's putter prevents Friday charge

It seemed like all the ingredients were there for a Tiger move to the top of the leaderboard. And with the way he started striping his irons early, it looked like he would have a share of the lead before the American audience was out of bed. Tiger was placing his approach shots in all the right places, safely on the correct side of the pins where he could make a run at birdie and make easier pars. A dart into the par-4 third resulted in an easy birdie putt and Woods was off and running ... for 10 minutes, at least. On the very next hole, Woods missed what is the definition of a bunny putt -- it was not more than three feet and probably closer to two feet.


That three-putt left Woods muttering under his breath, but with the way he was hitting his irons, it was surely just a minor blip. After nearly making eagle on No. 5, however, Woods once again missed from inside three feet to give another shot right back:


That three-putt bogey on No. 8 would wipe out all the efforts he made early with his irons, and Tiger would make the turn in even-par 36.

It didn't get any easier on the back nine, which is where Woods made his run one day earlier. Both around the green and on the green, it was a constant grind as he gripped the putter a little tighter on each hole. A poor chip shot which he ran 15 feet past the hole led to another bogey at No. 11. It was clear to everyone watching that the short game was the one thing holding him back:

But even after all that grinding, Tiger still finished with the low 36-hole number of 2-under by draining a birdie on the 18th. That red number completed an even-round 71, which could be one of the low rounds of the day once the afternoon wave navigates some increasingly rough conditions at Muirfield.

Westy goes low
An Englishman has not won The Open Championship since Nick Faldo clinched his second win on this very course at Muirfield. There's a deep set of English players currently among the best in the world, such as Ian Poulter, Luke Donald, U.S. Open champ Justin Rose and Lee Westwood. Westwood is the eldest of the bunch, a 40-year-old who's been No. 1 in the world recently but is still searching for his first major as his career starts to hit its sunset. Earlier this week, he announced that he would enlist the help of Tiger's swing coach, Sean Foley -- a risky move at his advanced age. He's been close so many times at the majors, particularly the British, only to have his putter leave him at the biggest moments.

With that track record of contention, it was no surprise to see him climb up the leaderboard on Friday morning. What was surprising, however, was how he did it with the putter. Westwood's putting is spotty, to put it kindly, but he was rolling it perfectly for most of his second round. That streak with the putter combined with his consistently great iron play for the low round of the morning, a 3-under 68. Westwood started quickly, with two pinpoint irons on the first two holes for easy birdies on the way to a blistering outward 31.

At one point, he matched the lead of Zach Johnson at 5-under, but dropped three shots coming into the clubhouse. Perhaps the biggest moment came on No. 14 when he avoided a double bogey with a huge moderate-length putt to "save" bogey. A bogey at the last pushed him back to 2-under, but with the conditions only getting tougher, that 68 could hold up as the low round of the day.

Rory's bad week not getting better
The No. 2 player in the world blew up for an opening round 79, and seemed checked out early on the front nine as his miserable 2013 season continued. He then beat himself up in the post round presser and referred to his approach and game as "brain dead," which the unrelentting British tabloids had some fun with:

Not the best thing to wake up to after yesterday's disaster.

Darren Clarke's wild ride

Well before 5 a.m. ET, it looked like the Northern Irishman would be the one making the big move up the leaderboard and into contention for his second Open in the last three years. Clarke began the day with three birdies in his first five holes, moving inside the top five. But it all came undone on No. 6, which was the hardest hole on the course early this morning. Clarke made a quadruple bogey thanks to an adventure off the fairway and into the heather, and then getting trapped in a greenside pot bunker. It took Clarke three hacks to get it out of the sand, and he walked off with four shots dropped:


To his credit, Clarke did not completely fold after that mess, making two more birdies and avoiding another bogey until the last.

Jordan Spieth blows up down the stretch

The 19-year-old Spieth, who earned a late invite on Sunday with his first career PGA Tour victory, was the biggest story of the early morning. Spieth looked like a veteran Open player, getting to 3-under and in third place on the back nine. But more importantly than the birdies, Spieth was avoiding the large numbers:

Spieth had played 11 of his last 13 competitive rounds under par, and was on his way to another low number and perch near the top of the leaderboard. It unraveled, however, over the last four holes as he played Nos. 15 through 17 in 4-over to fall off the first page of the board. At 1-over he's still in it, but that last stretch in Friday's round could be a critical blow to serious contention. By his own admission, Spieth has far surpassed expectations for this first season, which he started without a full-time card. So the finish needs to be put in perspective, but given the way things were rolling for a majority of the round, it's still disappointing for the teenager.

Brutal conditions persist, potential afternoon carnage

The course setup was the biggest story on Thursday, with most players commenting on the borderline pin placements on greens that were completely baked out and running like concrete. The R&A did water the putting surfaces overnight, but now the wind is up on the Scottish coast and things aren't getting any easier, as some thought it would after the players' outcries yesterday. That could make for an interesting afternoon at Muirfield:

Up next: How will Phil handle the windy afternoon conditions? Will there be another Rory train wreck? Can Zach Johnson hang on, or add to his lead?

More golf from SB Nation:

After Round 1: Johnson leads; Tiger, Phil 2 back

Tiger, Phil to face different course conditions on Friday

Tiger’s ball goes the wrong way | More Tiger coverage

Charl Schwartzel snaps club in half | Thomas Bjorn breaks camera

A guide to Muirfield | A links course defined

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