GULLANE, Scotland, Reuters
Ernie Els charged into the lead with five early birdies on Friday as late starter Tiger Woods made his first move of the British Open’s second round.
South African Els, the world number three, began the day three shots off the pace but went to six under — one stroke clear of the field — when he rolled in a 30-foot putt from off the green to birdie the par-four sixth.
Woods, bidding for his third successive major title of the year, parred his first two holes and birdied the 378-yard third after hitting a wedge approach to within four feet of the flag. Another par followed at the fourth and the world number one was two under for the tournament, just four off the lead.
Sweden’s Carl Pettersson, one of three players sharing the overnight lead on 67, and Irishman Des Smyth were tied for second, Pettersson after 16 holes and Smyth 11.
A further shot back was Scotland’s Colin Montgomerie, who fired a seven-under-par 64 to vault up the leaderboard into a share of third place at four-under 138.
The Scot was level with seven others, including overnight leader Duffy Waldorf and Zimbabwe’s Nick Price, who carded a second-round 70.
Californian Waldorf was scheduled to tee off at 1452 GMT while Price, who birdied three of the first five holes to move two clear of the field earlier on, lost momentum around the turn and collected a birdie and two bogeys on the second nine. Lowest round Montgomerie, who collected five birdies and an eagle, celebrated his lowest round at a British Open.
The seven-times European number one, who opened with a first-round 74, reeled off four birdies and an eagle in his first 15 holes and sank a birdie putt from eight feet at the last.
“The eagle at five got things going for me — it was a 35-footer that just broke in,” said the 39-year-old Scot seeking to win his first major championship.
“That’s a good effort — to go from three over to four under on this course, I’m quite happy right now.
“The expectation on me here on Scotland is quite high and, halfway round, I was hoping I would still be here at the weekend.”
Northern Ireland’s Darren Clarke also produced some superb attacking golf on a course softened by steady morning drizzle.
Clarke fired a four-under-par 67, including four birdies, an eagle three at the fifth and a bogey, to draw level with South Africa’s Retief Goosen, who carded a 68, at three-under 139.
“I made an early birdie to get myself back into things and, overall, I’m quite pleased after a 67 to lie at three-under,” Clarke said.
“Now I need to keep on doing what I’m doing. If I can get my swing a little better, I may give myself a chance over the weekend.”
But U.S. PGA champion David Toms, joint-leader overnight, dropped off the pace with a second-round 75.
The 35-year-old American double-bogeyed the difficult first after finding the left-hand bunker off the tee and then collected four more bogeys, along with two birdies, to crash to even-par 142.