After two days of carnage at Muirfield, the field of the 2013 British Open has been cut in half. Of the 156 golfers who started the tournament on Thursday, just nine finished the first two rounds under par.
Here's a live look at the leaderboard.
With the leaders still waiting to tee off, there is still much uncertainty heading into the final two rounds. Saturday is moving day, but so far there hasn't been much positive movement.
Muirfield is playing brutally tough.
Here are a few predictions for how things will shake out the rest of the way.
Tiger Woods Will Distance Himself from Field in Round 3
When Tiger was winning major championships on a regular basis, he was the master of winning "moving day." He'd hang tough for the first two rounds and then make a big move on Saturday, which set him up to simply choke out his competition on Sunday.
It's been a long, long time since Woods has been able to dictate a major championship on Sunday afternoon, as noted by ESPN's Justin Ray, but that's about to change:
Tiger Woods enters the weekend T2nd. From 1997-2008, Woods won 14 of the 20 times he was top-5 thru 36. Since he is 0-for-6. #TheOpen— Justin Ray (@JRayESPNGolf) July 19, 2013
Woods has made his fair share of mistakes this week, just like every other golfer on the course. But the way he has responded, with sharper focus and a cool head, has set him apart from the field.
Utilizing smooth, effortless-looking swings, Tiger has been putting his approach shots into good spots on the greens. And once he gets his putter in his hands, the No. 1 player in the world has been getting the job done on the greens.
Most players have struggled to get a handle on the fast pace of the greens at Muirfield this week. Once the ball starts rolling, it just doesn't want to stop. But Woods has long been the best fast-green putter in the world, as noted by ESPN's Rick Reilly:
Tiger Woods is the best fast-greens putter in history. He has 18 one-putts in 2 days. #OpenChampionship— Rick Reilly (@ReillyRick) July 19, 2013
While many other players have expressed their displeasure at the difficult setup for The Open Championship at Muirfield, Woods appears to revel in it. He's playing with extreme confidence right now and is poised to finally break through and win his 15th major title.
An Australian Will Charge up the Board
Though not on the first page of the leaderboard, Aussie golfers Adam Scott and Jason Day are in contention for another major championship.
Scott, winner of the 2013 Masters, is just four shots off the lead at one-over par, and Day is five shots off at two-over par.
I want to show you something. It's my shocked face.
Which Aussie will finish in the top 5?
Between them, Scott and Day have compiled nine top-10 finishes since the start of the 2011 season. For some reason, no matter how well or poorly they play leading up to majors, the two Australian golfers know how to step up their games when the pressure is on.
Scott finished in second place last year behind Ernie Els. He had the tournament well in hand at the start of the fourth round but suffered a bit of a meltdown, handing the tournament over to Els on a platter.
Day has finished in the top three in both majors thus far in 2013, and his steady play will keep him in the tournament this weekend.
Winning Score Will Be over Par
Muirfield has been a merciless taskmaster for two rounds.
As was mentioned in the opening, just nine players finished their two rounds under par—a number that was less than half as much as the 20 golfers who finished under par after Round 1.
The winning score will be _______ at the 2013 British Open.
Rest assured, the golf course is only going to become more and more challenging as the weekend wears on, and nobody should be surprised if just two or three golfers remain under par after Saturday's round.
Though the course appears benign enough to the naked eye, a closer examination reveals treacherous monsters lurking in the shadows. The pot bunkers that surround the greens and fairways appear to have tractor beams buried at the bottom, and the waist-high rough has claimed many a shot.
Hole locations right on the edge of fall lines on the greens have also given the world's best putters no shortage of grief. Phil Mickelson was cruising along at one point in his second round before he three-putted from three feet away, as shown by CBS Sports' Eye on Golf, via Vine:
However, the course is not impossible to master.
Lee Westwood and Charl Schwartzel both shot rounds of three-under par on Friday, and at least a few players are bound to go low again on Saturday. That said, nobody should expect the winning score to be under par on Sunday afternoon.
Nerves, wind, bad bounces and plain old poor shots will cause the entire field to take a few steps backward as the tournament comes to a close.
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