Tiger Woods and Lee Westwood have a few things in common, heading into the weekend as the penultimate twosome off the tee at Muirfield.
Each British Open competitor has a hunger to lift the claret jug on Sunday, planned to watch his colleagues deal with increasingly difficult afternoon conditions after grinding out a decent second round in the a.m., and will head into Saturday at 2-under and poised to end his individual major-less drought.
"I’ll kick back this afternoon on the couch and watch some struggles," Westwood told reporters after posting a 3-under 68 that had him level with Woods, Henrik Stenson and Dustin Johnson, and one of just nine players under par after two rounds. "I thought 1-over would be right in contention ... to be 2-under is a real bonus. It could be leading at the end of the day, you never know."
Woods was similarly pleased with his efforts and looked forward to stiffening conditions wreaking havoc with the half of the field that drew late tee times.
"I’m in a good spot. I’m tied for the clubhouse lead," Woods said after schooling Graeme McDowell and adding an even-par to Thursday’s 69. "These guys have to go out this afternoon and obviously play a golf course that's quick and it's drying out and with a different wind so it will be tough out there."
Tough did not begin to describe the mayhem that ensued Friday afternoon, what with Brandt Snedeker, one of the best putters on tour, and Phil Mickelson, secret flat-stick stroke and all, four-putting (at the par-4 15th and par-3 16th, respectively). Not one player in the final 25 groups finished the third round under par, and that included 18-hole leader Zach Johnson, who carded a 4-over 75 that left him at 1-under for the week.
Woods (three shots back) and Westwood (six off the pace) entered the day trailing Johnson, but now sit just one stroke shy of Miguel Angel Jimenez and enjoyed the benefit of softer course conditions after tourney organizers watered the greens on Thursday night.
"The greens were a little softer this morning," Westwood said, according to europeantour.com. "I repaired a pitch mark on the second and third but that was about it as far as that was concerned. They started to firm up pretty quickly."
Woods and Westwood also swear by the lessons of the same swing guru, with the world No. 1 an apostle of Sean Foley since 2010 and the Englishman a recent convert to the teachings of the Canadian instructor. And while each player share every contender’s dream of winning the third major of the season, there's more at stake for these two Foley students than for most golfers in the field.
Indeed, Westwood signed on with Foley to get his long game in shape so he could join newly crowned U.S. Open champ and a member of Foley’s flock, Justin Rose, as a winner of his first major. He also enlisted the services of 1991 British Open champion Ian Baker-Finch to hone his putting.
"I did a lot of work with Ian," Westwood said. "He gave me a couple of tips on getting the tension out of my arms."
Woods, of course, owns 14 more major titles than Westwood, but the pressure was even greater on him to move a step closer to Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18 majors, something he has not done since 2008.
So they've all come back to Tiger. What do we say if he doesn't win now?— Dan Jenkins (@danjenkinsgd) July 19, 2013
"Just continue plodding along, just continue just being patient, putting the ball in the right spots," said Woods. "We're not going to get a lot of opportunities out there but when I have I've been able to capitalize and hopefully I can continue doing that."