Lee Westwood leads British Open by two shots

00:41, Jul 21 2013
Zach Johnson
Early first round leader Zach Johnson went five-under on the front nine.
Ian Poulter
Ian Poulter tries to use body English to move a putt during his first round.
Ian Poulter and Billy Horschel
Making a loud statement with their pants, Ian Poulter (left) and Billy Horschel.
Miguel Angel Jimenez
Miguel Angel Jimenez plays out of the bunker on the 18th hole.
David Lynn
English man David Lynn plays his second shot on the 11th hole.
Rafael Cabrera-Bello
Spaniard Rafael Cabrera-Bello was the early clubhouse leader at four-under.
Rory McIlroy
Rory McIlroy
Jason Day
Jason Day ponders a putting line on the second hole.
Tiger Woods
Tiger Woods lines up a putt early in his first round at Muirfield.
Shiv Kapur
India's Shiv Kapur rose briefly to the lead during the first round.
Louis Oosthuizen
Louis Oosthuizen is taken from the course on a golf cart after withdrawing.
British Open at Muirfield
A view of the 13th hole at the Muirfield course.
Lee Westwood
Lee Westwood shakes hands with Charl Schwartzel after the completion of their second round.
Charl Schwartzel
Charl Schwartzel plays from the bunker near the 16th green.
Tiger Woods
Tiger Woods reacts after missing a birdie putt on the ninth hole in the second round.
Ryan Moore
Ryan Moore tees off on the par-three 16th hole.
DA Points
DA Points hacks out of the long grass as a freighter sails by behind him.
Sergio Garcia
Sergio Garcia adjusts his cap after finishing his second round.
Nick Faldo
Nick Faldo hugs his caddie and son Matthew in what could be his last British Open round.
Rory McIlroy
Rory McIlroy waves at the crowd after rolling in a putt in his second round.
Miguel Angel Jimenez
Miguel Angel Jimenez lines up a putt during his second round.
Rafael Cabrera-Bello
Rafael Cabrera-Bello plays from off the fairway in front of a sombrero-wearing spectator.
British Open Golf
Lee Westwood reacts after making a birdie putt on the 17th hole.
British Open Golf
Tiger Woods reacts after a wayward shot on the 15th during his third round.
British Open Golf
Angel Cabrera reacts after missing his par putt on the 18th.
British Open Golf
Adam Scott enjoys the fine weather as he walks along the 18th fairway.
2013 British Open
Phil Mickelson celebrates a birdie putt on the 18th hole.
2013 British Open
Lee Westwood was unable to build on his early form and claim his first Major win.
2013 British Open
Tiger Woods shakes hands with his former caddie Steve Williams, who now works with Adam Scott.
2013 British Open
Adam Scott was unable to build on early promise and win his second Major.

Lee Westwood is positioned to win the first major title of his career.

Boy, does that sound familiar.

Long considered one of the best players without a signature win on his resume, the Englishman curled in a 20-metre eagle putt on the way to a one-under 70 that put him two strokes ahead of Tiger Woods and Hunter Mahan in the British Open overnight (NZ time).

The 40-year-old Westwood has been a perennial contender in majors, finishing second or third a staggering seven times.

But he's never been able to finish the job.

He'll try to do it tonight (NZ time) at baked-out Muirfield, playing in the final group with Mahan.

Woods will be in the next-to-last pairing after shooting 72, a stumble at the end leaving him two shots behind Westwood's 54-hole total of 3-under 210.

They are the only three players under par for the championship.

New Zealand's Mark Brown is tied for 51st after a solid one-over par round of 72. Brown had 14 pars, three bogeys - on the fourth, sixth and 15th - and an eage three on the ninth.

Adam Scott is again a contender for the claret jug, though this time he'll have to come from behind. Last year, he seemed to have it wrapped up at Lytham until he bogeyed the final four holes, a stunning collapse that left him one stroke behind Ernie Els.

Scott matched Westwood's 70 and was at 213.

Miguel Angel Jimenez, the popular 36-hole leader, faded from contention on a miserable day. The Mechanic bogeyed four of the first eight holes, unable to scramble for pars as he did the first two days when his drives and iron shots got away from him. He limited the damage with birdies at the ninth and 13th, but things can turn quickly at Muirfield.

Jimenez bogeyed the 14th, took a double-bogey at the 16th when he needed two swings to escape a towering pot bunker alongside the green, and a lipped-out putt on 17 gave him another bogey. The 49-year-old staggered to the finish with a 77 and 216 total, his one-shot lead after the second round now a six-shot deficit going to the fourth round.

Those closing holes were crucial.

One shot ahead of Woods, Westwood faced the possible three-shot swing at the 16th when he yanked his tee shot into the tall grass, far left of the green, and Woods plopped his ball about 20 feet away from the flag on the right.

Westwood whacked at his ball but couldn't make it onto the green, watching it roll back to the edge of the second cut. Then he putted it up the hill, the ball stopping about 5m short of the cup. As Woods lined up a possible birdie, Westwood knew he could do no better than bogey - or worse.

Woods' putt stopped right alongside the hole, a tap-in par. Westwood calmly rolled his ball right in the center of the cup, having surrendered only one stroke to his playing partner.

As it turned out, the big swing came at the next hole. Westwood made another clutch putt on the par-5 17th, sinking a 3.5m putt for birdie. Woods made a sloppy bogey after a baffling mistake, shanking his second shot in a fairway bunker.

They both made par at the final hole, denying Woods at least a share of the 54-hole lead in a major for the first time since the 2009 US PGA Championship.

Woods has never won any of his 14 major titles when trailing after three rounds. He had never lost one from that position, either, until Y E Yang pulled off a stunning upset at Hazeltine nearly four years ago.

Woods still has a shot at moving closer to Jack Nicklaus' record of 18 major titles.

Westwood briefly put himself three shots clear of the field on the front side, the most memorable shot a long, curling putt off the front of the fifth green for eagle. Woods fought back into a tie as they made the turn, Westwood grabbed the lead again with a birdie at the 14th, before Woods pulled even at 16.

Of course, it doesn't take long for things to change at this course along the Forth of Firth, where the Scottish weather has been postcard-perfect - sunny, temperatures in the 70s F (20s C), with nary a hint of rain - but the course has proven to be a brutal test. The fairways could pass for paved roads. The greens are as firm as a snooker table.

Mahan quietly moved into contention with a barely noticed 68, the best score among those at the top.

Most of the attention was focused on Westwood and Woods.

That should be the case again on Sunday, two stars of the game chasing very different goals.

Advertisement

Lee Westwood
IN FRONT: Lee Westwood leads the 2013 British Open after three rounds.

AP