GULLANE, Scotland — Miguel Angel Jimenez led the way and Tiger Woods ground out a second-round 71 to stay right in the mix as the British Open turned into a dogfight at Muirfield on Friday.
The early starters enjoyed the best conditions on another sun-drenched day, but the course bared its teeth in the afternoon to create a congested leaderboard heading into the weekend.
Jimenez, 49, followed his opening 68 with an even-par 71, the cigar-loving Spaniard drawing on all his experience to mix two birdies with two bogeys in a steady round to finish at 3-under.
“I like to feel the pressure. As long as you can handle that, it’s no problem,” he said. “I feel comfortable.”
World No. 1 Woods made two birdies and two bogeys on the front nine and sank a 10-foot putt on the final green to finish at 2-under par along with Briton Lee Westwood (68), Henrik Stenson of Sweden (70) and American Dustin Johnson (72).
Briton Martin Laird, Spaniard Rafael Cabrera-Bello, American Zach Johnson and Angel Cabrera of Argentina were the only other players to finish under par and will start the third round two behind Jimenez.
Woods collected birdies at the third and fifth holes but bogeys on the fourth, eighth and 11th halted his charge. He waved his putter in frustration after wasting a birdie chance at the 12th.
He maintained his concentration, however, to par the next five holes and a fine approach shot set up a birdie on the last hole that he celebrated with a trademark fist pump.
“Towards the middle part of my round I lost the pace and was blowing it past the hole,” said Woods. “But I finally got it fixed at the end.
“Just got to continue plodding along. Continue being patient, putting the ball in the right spots and trying.
“We’re not going to get a lot of opportunities out there but when I have I’ve been able to capitalize and hopefully I can continue doing that.”
Westwood, seeking a first major championship, took advantage of a hot putter to pick up six birdies over the first 12 holes.
He briefly moved to 5-under but had to settle for a round of 68 after three bogeys over the closing stretch.
“I was pleased to be 5-under through 12,” said Westwood. “I was playing some great stuff and it was just getting harder as the holes progressed, tougher to score, tougher to get it close.
“The finish is tough, 16, 17, 18 are playing hard. So it’s like most major championships, it’s a grind out there.”
Cabrera, twice a major champion and runner-up in this year’s Masters, got to 4-under after 13 holes but dropped shots at the 14th, 15th and 18th to fall back.
Zach Johnson, the overnight leader after an opening 66, bogeyed four holes on the front nine but got back to 5-under before giving away another four shots, including a double-bogey six at the treacherous 15th.