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With his impressive 7-under 65 Friday, Tiger Woods posted the lowest first 36-hole score (132) in a major in his career. (Photo: E.M. Pio Roda,
With his impressive 7-under 65 Friday, Tiger Woods posted the lowest first 36-hole score (132) in a major in his career. (Photo: E.M. Pio Roda,

Tiger-Ernie final pairing has Royal Liverpool all abuzz

Just when it looked like Tiger Woods well was on his way to another runaway major win, up stepped Ernie Els. The Big Easy matched the course record set first Friday morning by Chris DiMarco then tied by Woods with a 7-under 65 that left him one shot behind Woods at 11 under par.

By T.J. Auclair, Junior Editor

HOYLAKE, England -- Tiger Woods was doing his best impression of, well, himself circa 2000, during the second round of the 135th Open Championship at Royal Liverpool on Friday.

Of course, 2000 was the year Woods won the first three legs of his "Tiger Slam," where he trounced the field in record fashion at the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach (a 12-shot win), the Open Championship at St. Andrews (a tournament-record score of 19-under-par) and finally edged Bob May in a three-hole playoff at the PGA Championship. He completed the Tiger Slam by winning his fourth major in succession at the 2001 Masters.

Early in Friday's second round Woods dazzled the crowds en route to his course-record-tying 7-under-par 65, which included a spectacular eagle on the 456-yard par-4 14th hole -- the second-most difficult hole through two rounds at Royal Liverpool -- with a long 4-iron shot that bounced up to the hole, hit the pin and dropped straight in.

The eagle helped Woods tie the Royal Liverpool course record set about an hour earlier by Chris DiMarco and matched a few hours later by former Open Champion Ernie Els. DiMarco, still mourning the death of his mother on July 4, made eight birdies and a bogey to improve to 9-under, while Els was flawless while carding seven birdies that left him on 11-under, one shot behind Woods.

But clearly the shot of the day was Woods' holed second shot on the difficult 14th that sent the gallery into raucous cheers for the two-time Open Champion and 10-time major winner.

"I don't know what I had to the hole," Woods said after his best 36-hole total in a major, 132. "I had 194 to the front and was trying to lay the ball on the front edge and let it chase on, wherever it chases on, and I had a 4-iron there. On 12 I had 190 and hit a nice little 4-iron up on the green, and I was basically hitting the same shot, just trying to hold the ball in the wind. I really hit it flush and it held nicely."

Aside from the eagle, Woods made birdies at Nos. 4, 5, 8, 10, 11 and 16. His only bogey came at the par-4 third hole. He birdied three of the four par 5s.

"You've got to look at the fact that there are four par 5s and you can hit an iron on every one after a good tee shot and a few short holes and obviously some difficult ones mixed in there," he said. "It all depends on the wind."

Woods is hoping to become the first player since Tom Watson in 1983 to successfully defend his Open title.

Els, a three-time major champion but shut out in them since his Open win at Muirfield in 2002, was the only player near the top of the leader board who teed off in the afternoon. He birdied Nos. 3, 5, 6, 10, 14, 16 and 18 to pull within one shot of the lead.

"I really enjoyed myself today. I played some solid golf," Els said. "All in all, I tried to play the course quite conservatively. If there were fairway bunkers that I couldn?t fly with my driver I was laying up short and leaving myself shots from the fairway. At times when I could be aggressive, I was. I kind of timed it well today. But I really enjoyed the round, obviously."

Aside from his mother's sudden death, DiMarco has struggled all season long due to a nagging injury suffered in a ski accident in March. He had just one bogey in the second round, that on No. 17, but he bounced back by making an 8-foot birdie putt on the last.

"Tiger at his best is hard to beat," DiMarco said. "Tiger at a course he likes at his best is really hard to beat. All I can do is go out and try to play the best golf that I can play. I know a couple of years ago I took him right down to the wire at a course he loves [Augusta National], at a course he was hitting in the fairway on. Anything can happen in 36 holes."

Starting the year, DiMarco was ranked No. 3 in the Ryder Cup standings but drifted all the way down to his current No. 20 position. Add to the injury the death of his mother just two weeks ago and it's impressive DiMarco is playing as well as he has so far. The 65 was his best round in the Open since he shot a 68 in the first round of the 2001 Open at Royal Lytham and St. Annes.

After an eagle on No. 16, two-time U.S. Open winner Retief Goosen was at 8-under and trailed Woods by four shots. He took a bogey at No. 17 to drop back to 7-under, five shots off the pace, but with a birdie on the last hole he got back to 8-under and four shots out of the lead.

Spain's Miguel Angel Jimenez, who got to 9-under after playing his first five holes in 4-under before fading to a 70, and Australian Adam Scott, who shot a 69 to go with his first-round 68 were tied for fourth with Mikko Ilonen at 7-under.

Masters champion Phil Mickelson shot a 1-under 71 in the second round to get to 4-under 140 and eight shots out of the lead.

Seventy-one players made the 36-hole cut. It came at 1-under 143 and was the lowest cut in a major since the 1990 Open Championship at St. Andrews, which was also 143. American Ryder Cup hopeful Vaughan Taylor birdied his final hole to get to 1-under and knocked 11 players off the previous cut line of even-par, which stood through most of the day.

Notable players who missed the cut included U.S. Ryder Cup Captain Tom Lehman at 1-over; John Daly, who took a triple-bogey 8 on No. 18 to go from 2-under to 1-over; Vijay Singh, Fred Couples, Stuart Appleby and Ben Curtis all at 2-over; Colin Montgomerie and Nick Faldo at 4-over; Padraig Harrington at 5-over; and Darren Clarke and Ian Poulter at 7-over.

Unlike on Thursday, when rains forced a 30-minute delay at the start, Friday welcomed wonderfully clear skies and comfortable temperatures in the low 70s.

Check back to often during each day's play of the 135th Open Championship as our main story will be continually updated.

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