Big names move up against Woods

The first round of the 134th British Open at the St Andrews had Tiger Woods authority stamped all over it.

updated: February 25, 2007 10:51 IST
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The first round of the 134th British Open at the St Andrews had Tiger Woods' authority stamped all over it. The world number one golfer shot a six under par 66 to take the first round lead. This year he won the Masters and finished second at the US Open. The last two British Open champions were unknown Americans. Woods challenged This time, plenty of big names are positioned for a run at the claret jug. Tiger Woods was at the top of the list, of course, trying to build on his first-round lead. But the world's top-ranked player was hardly alone. Vijay Singh pulled into a tie with Woods on Friday, just ahead of Sergio Garcia. Ernie Els and Phil Mickelson surged into contention. John Daly was hanging around, too. No one would mistake anyone in that group for Ben Curtis (the 2003 Open champion) or Todd Hamilton (last year's winner). "If I can be somewhere around four or five shots off the lead going to the weekend, that wouldn't be a bad thing," Garcia said after shooting a 3-under 69 that gave him a 5-under 139 at the midway point. "I feel good about my game. Hopefully, I can get into it." Singh ties with Woods Singh shot his second straight 69 and could have gone lower, missing several good birdie opportunities. But he managed to avoid any bogeys while joining a first-place tie that grew to four names shortly after Woods teed off in the afternoon. "I had a lot of chances," Singh said. "I'm striking the ball well. I'm putting well, too. It's just not going in." Els, Mickelson slug it out Els and Mickelson were matching each other virtually shot-for-shot, following up 74s with 67s that left them at 141 - and hopeful of turning the weekend into a high-stakes shootout involving a who's who of golf. "That's what I needed to do," Els said. "I made eight birdies ... and, unfortunately, three bogeys. So I'm still making mistakes. But I've got to be happy with that." Mickelson's card looked the same: eight birdies, three bogeys and just seven pars. It wasn't all prominent names at the top. Trevor Immelman, a South African who plays on the European Tour, shot 70 to match Singh for the clubhouse lead at 138. Englishman Simon Dyson also was at 6 under with eight holes left. Conditions were favorable at the Old Course - the sun peaked through the clouds and there was only a light breeze rustling along the Scottish seaside. All the golfers had to do was stay away from the 112 bunkers that served as second line of defense at St. Andrews, the birthplace of golf. Nicklaus on last putt It figured to be an emotional second round, with Jack Nicklaus facing the very real possibility of making his final walk across the Swilcan Bridge. Playing the 164th - and last - major of his storied career, he faced the difficult task of trying to make the cut after starting with a 75 on Thursday. His approach at No. 2 tumbled into one of the deep bunkers and led to bogey, further dampening his chances of getting in two more rounds. But he got one back with a birdie at the par-5 fifth. "Obviously, I'm going to have to play well," the 65-year-old Nicklaus said beforehand. "I doubt if par will make the cut. We'll just have to see." Mark Hensby began the second round as Woods' closest challenger, one shot behind the leader's opening 66. But the Aussie plunged off the leaderboard with triple bogeys at the second and fourth holes. As for the contenders, Garcia was joined at 5 under by Stuart Appleby, Brad Faxon and 1989 Open champion Mark Calcavecchia. Daly, who won the 1995 Open at St. Andrews, was among those at 4 under, joined by two-time US Open champion Retief Goosen and two-time Masters winner Jose Maria Olazabal. David Toms didn't have a chance to join the hunt. The 2001 PGA Championship winner DQed himself because he might have hit a moving ball while tapping in for double bogey on the 17th hole Thursday. "It was just one of those iffy areas about whether or not a rule was violated, and I was the only one that saw it," Toms told Press Association. "I just felt it was better that I disqualified myself.'' Woods, who grew up wanting to do everything the Golden Bear did - and then some - was right where he wanted to be, leading another British Open at St. Andrews. He claimed his first Open title in 2000 at the Old Course, and was the man to beat again. The only American to win two British titles at St. Andrews? Nicklaus, of course. By the time this week is done, Woods might be checking something else off his wish list. "When Tiger is on, he's impossible to beat," Hensby said. "People are scared to say it, but it's true." (AP)