British Open notebook: Improved putting might be the edge Westwood needs

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Jon Super | ASSOCIATED PRESS
Lee Westwood tied for the day’s lowest round with a 3-under-par 68. He is at 2 under for the tournament, one shot out of the lead.

GULLANE, Scotland — Lee Westwood was addressing a birdie putt on the ninth green when a child starting crying in the packed stands just behind him.

It seemed as if everyone on and around the putting surface looked up or squirmed.

Not Westwood.

The Englishman didn’t even flinch, staying in his zone as he rolled in the fifth birdie of his second round en route to briefly taking a share of the lead at the British Open yesterday.

Westwood’s woes on the greens have been the main reason why he remains without a major victory at the age of 40. But moving to the United States this year — and hiring 1991 Open champion Ian Baker-Finch as his putting coach — has helped.

His putting on Muirfield’s bone-dry greens was sharp, as he shot a 3-under-par 68 that left him at 2 under and right in contention at yet another major tournament. He is tied for second, a stroke behind Miguel Angel Jimenez.

“I got a couple of tips from Ian on getting tension out of my arms and having a bit more control,” Westwood said. “And I’m getting it on line nicely, and I’ve gauged the pace of the greens, as well.”

Westwood couldn’t be happier with his overall game.

“I’m hitting the ball well and controlling the flight most of the time pretty well, and getting up and down when I needed to,” he said.

Major duds

U.S. Open champion Justin Rose led a parade of stars exiting the British Open.

Rose shot a 6-over 77 to finish with a two-day total of 11-over 152, missing the cut by two strokes. He was joined by several former major winners, including Rory McIlroy and Jim Furyk, as well as a few others such as Luke Donald, Matteo Manassero and Nick Watney — all ranked among the top 30 players in the world.

“Golf humbles you all the time,” said Rose, No. 3 in the ranking.

The last U.S. Open champion to miss the cut at the British Open was Lucas Glover in 2009.

McIlroy shot 75 to go with a first-round 79. Birdies were so few and far between that he celebrated one at No. 17 with an exaggerated fist-pump.

“That was a very big putt for me,” he said, laughing.

Still frustrated

One day after snapping his 8-iron in disgust, Charl Schwartzel went on the offensive again.

The South African described conditions at Muirfield as unfair and “a lottery,” despite tying with Westwood for the day’s lowest score.

The 2011 Masters champion compared the fairways to a “runway” after hitting his drive on No. 15 380 yards into a bunker at speed and another at the second hole more than 400 yards.

Schwartzel, who is 1 over for the tournament, said, “You don’t know what’s going to happen … you can hit good shots and get all sorts of results. And that’s not exactly fair, in my eyes.”

But what if he goes on to win the Open?

“I’ll be kissing this golf course,” Schwartzel said.

Notable

Ostrander native Ben Curtis shot a 71 and is still in contention at

3 over. … Age might have caught up with first-round surprises Mark O’Meara and Tom Lehman. O’M eara followed a 67 with a 78 and is at

3 over. After a 68, Lehman shot a 77 and is among the group of 10 tied for 24th at 3 over.

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