The Open: Jimenez emerges as leader at half-way stage

Veteran Miguel Angel Jimenez sits alone at the top of the Open Championship leaderboard, one shot clear on three-under. Picture: Getty
Veteran Miguel Angel Jimenez sits alone at the top of the Open Championship leaderboard, one shot clear on three-under. Picture: Getty
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ON A day when the bone-dry rough again crackled underfoot, the players continued to battle with testing pin positions at the 142nd Open championship at Muirfield.

Although he exudes great outer calm Miguel Angel Jimenez fought as hard as anyone to emerge as leader of the Open at the half-way stage on three-under-par for the tournament, with Tiger Woods and Lee Westwood poised a shot further back.

However, no-one came from further away to make the cut than Paul Lawrie, the Open championship winner in 1999. He now has another claim to fame – the longest drive at the 2013 Open.

Lawrie’s fortunes improved markedly yesterday following his ten over par opening round of 81. A two-under par 69 was one of the rounds of the day yesterday and left him on eight over for the tournament. When the Aberdonian completed his round at around 1.30pm, it still seemed implausible that he would make the cut. Lawrie thought likewise, and drove the 150 miles home to Aberdeen, where he walked his dog, re-gripped come clubs and then learned that the cut had increased to eight over, after Camilo Vilegas double-bogeyed the last hole yesterday evening.

By this time Lawrie was already well into the household chores. “That’s the first time in 20 years on Tour that I’ve had to go back to a tournament,” he said. “I had something to eat at the course and then drove back home because I thought I had no chance of making it in. I thought six over would struggle and that seven would be a real stretch, but not eight in a million years.”

“We got back to Aberdeen around 5pm when Marian got a text saying I was tied 84th and I thought: ‘Man, there’s still a few hours to go’.

“I just got a new set of Wilson irons yesterday so I put new grips on them and did a few other bits and pieces. Then we went out to walk the dog when my eldest boy Craig texted to say Villegas was in the bunker on the last and I was back in.”

Even players as experienced as Lawrie are learning that you can take nothing for granted at this fascinating Open championship.

Fellow Scot Richie Ramsay was another who returned home after finishing on eight over par for the tournament, although, living in Edinburgh, he was not inconvenienced to the same extent. There was no such relief for Rory McIlroy, Justin Rose and Luke Donald, who were among the highest-profile casualties. McIlroy added a second round of 75 to his opening 79 and finished on a total of 12 over par. He for one knew there was no prospect of a call to say: ‘Come back’.

Woods is ominously placed just a short behind Jimenez, as is Westwood and Henrik Stenson.

Martin Laird lurks just a further shot back, on one under par as he bids to become the first Scotsman since Lawrie to win the Open championship title. Cheered on by the home galleries, Laird shot a level par 71.

Jimenez is equally popular with the galleries but he is probably the last player the local fire services would wish to see prolong his stay at Muirfeld. His cigar-chomping habit combined with the tinderbox conditions adds up to a significant fire-scare, although he issued a promise last night not to smoke during his rounds.

Now the trick is to maintain this challenge until late tomorrow afternoon. If he does lift the Claret Jug the 49 year old will become the oldest golfer to win a major since Julius Boras, who was 48 when he won the US PGA championship in 1968.

The projected cut increased throughout the day, as the struggles of the players intensified. At one stage, it was predicted as four over. Eventually, it was confirmed as eight over, the highest since Royal Birkdale in 2008.