Tiger Woods plodded along most of the day. He lipped out a putt from 2½ feet. He settled for a bunch of pars.
Then, with his final stroke, he looked like the Tiger of old.
Woods rolled in a 15-footer for birdie on Muirfield’s tough closing hole Friday, raising his putter toward the blue sky with a flourish, fully aware he was positioned again to break the longest major drought of his career.
“It will be a fun weekend,” Wood said. “This golf course is going to be difficult.”
He finished with an even-par 71 that looked pretty good under the circumstances. This was another day for surviving the perilous, rock-hard setup, and Woods walked to the clubhouse just three shots behind first-round leader Zach Johnson, one of the last guys to tee off.
Not bad, considering Woods went through a stretch of 12 holes without a birdie before stealing one at the 18th.
“I was kind of fighting it,” he said.
Lee Westwood was one of the few morning starters to put up a score in the 60s, but even he was staggering a bit by the end.
After a brilliant front nine — he carded five birdies — the 40-year-old Englishman bogeyed three of the last six holes to finish with a 68.
Still, he joined Woods and Henrik Stenson at 2-under 140 overall, solidly in contention for his first major title. The last English golfer to win the British Open was Nick Faldo in 1992.
“Why not enjoy it out there?” Westwood said. “It’s tough for everybody. So smile your way through.”
Woods is trying to break a drought of his own. He’s 0-for-16 at majors since the 2008 U.S. Open, and missed four others during that stretch recovering from injuries.
Whoever wins this one will have to earn it. While the weather has been unseasonably warm and dry, the fearsome wind more of a gentle breeze, there weren’t many chances for going low. Not on a tabletop of a course that is more brown than green, with pin conditions that some players complained were downright unfair.
Shiv set to make cut
After a stunning start in the tournament, Shiv Kapur found the going tough as he returned with eight bogeys and two birdies in the second round but still set to make the cut.