Maruyama, Els take lead on a rainy second day

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src='' class='caption'> The British Open's second round got underway on Friday with light but persistent rain sweeping across Muirfield where Tiger Woods was set to resume his bid for

Updated: February 25, 2007 09:28 IST
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The British Open's second round got underway on Friday with light but persistent rain sweeping across Muirfield where Tiger Woods was set to resume his bid for a third successive major of the year. But it was South African Ernie Els who threatened to take command of the British Open with a 29 on the front side before faltering on his way in and settling for a share of the lead with Japan's Shigeki Maruyama. On a rainy day where birdies were plentiful on the Muirfield links, Els made three bogeys on the back nine to finish with a 5-under 66 that left him 6 under midway through the third major championship of the year. He was tied there with Maruyama, who shot a second straight 68 while playing under the added pressure of being in the same group as Tiger Woods. Woods matched the 68 of his playing partner and was 4 under, just two strokes off the lead in his quest for the third leg of golf's Grand Slam. "I just didn't make a whole lot of putts today,'' said Woods, who had three birdies and no bogeys. Els looked like he was going to run away with the lead, making seven birdies and two pars on the front nine. But the final nine proved more difficult for Els, who two years ago finished second to Woods in three majors. "It's not always that you're going to shoot a 29 in a major,'' Els said. "You just want to keep grinding, keep playing. On the back nine I played pretty solid. I guess I just ran out of birdie holes. I can't be too disappointed. I came from really nowhere getting myself to the lead.'' Just behind South African Els and Maruyama of Japan was a quintet of other international players at 5 under. They included Soren Hansen and Thomas Bjorn of Denmark, Swede Carl Pettersson, and Irishmen Padraig Harringon and Des Smyth. One day after seemingly ruling himself out of another major, Colin Montgomerie moved to 4 under by shooting a 64 that was the best round of the tournament and his best round ever in a British Open. Resuming his bid for a Grand Slam—all four professional majors in the same year—Woods picked up a birdie on the third hole and then birdied the par-5 fifth hole after hitting a 3-iron out of the rough just short of the green. But he missed short birdie putts on both the 15th and 16th holes, adding to his putting woes of a day earlier. Still, Woods said he was looking forward to a weekend run and hoping the weather might worsen to make it even tougher on the field. "If the wind ever blows it's going to be interesting,'' Woods said. Nick Price, who birdied three of the first five holes, struggled to finish at 70 and joined Montgomerie at 138 after two rounds at a Muirfield links that has been relatively tame without its famous wind. "That's a good effort to go from 3 over to 4 under,'' Montgomerie said. "I'm quite happy right now. I'm in a position where I could go forward.'' Montgomerie opened with a birdie and this time, he kept it going. A 35-footer (11 meters) curled in the cup for eagle on the fifth, and he closed out by hitting a 4-iron to 12 feet (4 meters) on the last hole for his seventh birdie. Each one produced an enormous cheer, just like last year at Royal Lytham & St. Annes when he led after 36 holes. He faded badly on the weekend. "Hopefully this year I could start with a terrible 74 and go forward,'' he said. Phil Mickelson was going in the opposite direction. Mickelson has always struggled in this major championship, and Muirfield was no different. Mickelson took a double bogey out of the hay, a double bogey when he tried to play a bunker shot from his knees, and he wound up with a 76. He was at 2-over 144, and had looked like he was barely going to make the cut. He wasn't alone. David Toms, who opened with a 67 to tie Pettersson and Duffy Waldorf for the first-round lead, hit into a pot bunker on the first hole, took two shots to get out and made double bogey. The rest of the day wasn't much better, and he finished with a 75 to fall back to even-par 142. Among those likely to miss the cut were Vijay Singh (75) and Jim Furyk (76), both at 147. They failed to take advantage on a day when so many others made a move. Darren Clarke played in the same group with Toms, and made up six shots on the first five holes with two birdies and a 20-foot (6 meter) eagle on No. 5, when he hit a 2-iron from 245 yards to reach the green on his second shot. Clarke had a 67 and was at 3-under 139 with two former U.S. Open champions—Retief Goosen and Corey Pavin, a short hitter whose presence so high up on the leaderboard shows that Muirfield will accommodate just about any style of game. Nick Faldo established a British Open record with a 69. It was his 34th round in the 60s, finally breaking the record he had shared with Jack Nicklaus since 1996—that was the last time Faldo had a round in the 60s at golf's oldest championship.(AP)

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