- Clubbing Down
Familiar cast chase redemption at The OpenWill TideyJuly 19, 2013
We've reached halfway point at the 142nd Open Championship, with the story lines as thick as Muirfield's rough and as difficult to predict as its wind-swept, sun-baked greens.
Miguel Angel Jimenez, aged 49 only recently returned from a broken leg suffered skiing, is our leader and seeking to become the oldest major winner in history. The Mechanic runs his motor smooth, but at some point nerves will penetrate his cloak of cigar smoke cool.
"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," Jimenez said after shooting a very respectable level-par 71 on Friday.
The Spaniard would be a widely celebrated winner, but his narrative is no more compelling than a host of other well-known players in the mix.
Henrik Stenson eyes redemption. The Swede fell to 230th in the world last year and would complete a remarkable comeback from the golfing wilderness with victory in Scotland.
Lee Westwood is where you'd expect him to be - in the mix at a major heading into the weekend. Quiet optimism abounds, and what a story for English golf it would be for Westy to win a first big one at 40, following Justin Rose's US Open success last month.
But as Westwood knows better than anyone, the hard part starts here. The closer he gets, the greater the weight of all of those could-have-beens. Perhaps a call to Andy Murray is in order, for advice on how to break the hoodoo.
And then there's Tiger Woods, who held firm on a bruising day two with a fiercely focused performance to leave himself just one stroke back. If the world no. 1 makes a move on Saturday, the rest of the field may struggle to catch him.
But on this Muirfield layout, making a move may simply mean staying still. Just 11 players broke par on Friday, which was testament to the conditions and a course that was set up to try the players.
"You win," said Phil Mickelson, when asked to wrap up his second-round 74. He was talking to Muirfield.
At one over, Lefty is still just four back and could yet make it happen. Ian Poulter is alongside him, as is Bubba Watson. The 2011 champion Darren Clarke is also in that group. Jordan Spieth, at 19, is the rare young gun amid a sea of seasoned heads.
In these conditions, experience counts, which makes it no surprise to see Angel Cabrera making a trademark appearance near the top of a majors leaderboard.
Can he win at 43? Of course he can. Just as Jimenez can at 49 and Westwood at 40. Because from here until Sunday evening the most important factor is how these players handle their inevitable disasters.
Winning The Open truly is a battle of wills as much as a battle of skill. Based on the leaderboard heading into the weekend, we could be in for an absolute classic.