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Friday, 19 July 2013
Miguel Angel Jimenez  (Getty Images)
Miguel Angel Jimenez (Getty Images)
Already the oldest winner in European Tour history, Spain's Miguel Angel Jiménez boosted his chances of becoming the oldest Major Champion as well in The 142nd Open Championship.

American Julius Boros has held that distinction since winning the US PGA Championship in 1968 aged 48, but 49 year old Jiménez claimed the clubhouse lead at a fiery Muirfield thanks to a second round of 71.

Jimenez, who broke his leg in a skiing accident last December shortly after winning the Hong Kong Open aged 48 and 318 days, carded two birdies and two bogeys to finish three under par, one ahead of England's Lee Westwood, World Number One Tiger Woods and Sweden's Henrik Stenson.

"Of course I feel pressure, anything that is important to you makes you feel pressure, but as long as I can handle it there is no problem," said Jiménez who returned to action in the Open de España in April and finished fourth in the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth Club five weeks later.

"I have been playing golf for 25 years and sometimes you think maybe it's too many, but it's okay."

Westwood had reached five under when he raced to the turn in 31 and then birdied the 12th, but even dropping three shots in his last six holes could not dampen the 40 year old's mood after a 68.

"It's a Major and I love playing The Open Championship," said Westwood, who recently enlisted the help of Woods' coach Sean Foley on his long game and 1991 Open Champion Ian Baker-Finch on his putting as he seeks a first Major title.

"It's the biggest event of the year for me. Why not enjoy it out there? It's tough for everybody so smile your way through it.

"I thought one over would be right in contention so to be two under is a real bonus. The greens were a little softer this morning. 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.

"I was pleased to be six under through 12. I was playing some great stuff and it was just getting harder as the holes progressed. The golf course got really difficult and the finish is tough as 16, 17 and 18 are playing hard. I'll kick back this afternoon on the couch and watch some struggles and the cricket."

Woods, whose last Major title came in the 2008 US Open, carded two birdies in his first five holes but then had to wait until the 18th for another after dropping shots at the eighth and 11th.

"I'm in a good spot," the 37 year old said.

"I've just got to continue plodding along, continue just being patient, putting the ball in the right spots.

"We're not going to get a lot of opportunities out there but when I have I've been able to capitalise and hopefully I can continue doing that."

From the start of his professional career, Woods played in 46 consecutive Major Championships and won 14 of them. Since the last of those victories five years ago there have been 20 more. Woods has played in 16 and won none.

"I've been right there, I give myself chances. I've had chances on the back nine of many of those Sundays," he added.

"Just one of those things where I haven't gotten it done.

"I'm not going to win every Major I play in, but certainly I can try and put myself there. If I give myself enough opportunities, I'll get my share, and I think I have so far in my career."

 

Jiménez looked a strong favourite to lead at the end of the day, especially when overnight leader Zach Johnson followed birdies on the 12th and 13th with a bogey on the 14th.

At four under the former Masters Tournament champion shared the lead with a fellow Augusta National winner Angel Cabrera, but the pair still had a tough finishing stretch to face, including the 15th that had seen Brandt Snedeker four-putt from 15 feet and Nicolas Colsaerts run up a quintuple-bogey nine.

Johnson duly dropped back with a double bogey on the 15th after running through the green with his approach and three-putting from short range, while Phil Mickelson four-putted the par three 16th.

Cabrera had bogeyed the 14th and 15th to join Johnson on two under, leaving Jiménez out in front as the day drew to a close.

Justin Rose missed the cut after adding a 77 to his opening 75 to finish ten over, the US Open Champion managing just two birdies in two days.

And World Number Two Rory McIlroy was also making an early exit on 12 over following a 75.

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