Garcia out front, Tiger takes a dip, Lefty heading home after 77

Tiger Woods
John Biever/SI
Tiger Woods shot a three-over 74.

Hey, at least Woods will be around for the weekend. Phil Mickelson was sure to miss the cut in his second straight major after slumping to an ugly 77 for a 148 total.

"I thought I was playing a lot better than this," moaned Mickelson, who has only one top-10 finish at the British Open.

He had to take a one-stroke penalty at No. 2 after his ball plugged into the soggy turf. On the PGA Tour, he could have taken relief for an imbedded lie, but not under the Royal & Ancient rules.

At the 18th, Mickelson lost two more strokes. He drove into the Barry Burn, wound up missing a 3-foot putt and took double bogey.

Garcia hasn't made those sort of mistakes.

After holing seven birdies Thursday on a course that reduced him to tears eight years ago, the emotional Spaniard settled for a nice, solid round on Day 2, which began under ashen skies but morphed into a brilliantly sunny afternoon along the North Sea.

Rain was in the forecast for Saturday, but there's no telling what the weather might do along the Scottish coast. Woods was preparing for the worst.

"You shoot anything around par," he said, "you'll be looking pretty good."

A year ago, Garcia played with Woods in the final group Sunday but never seriously challenged for the championship, fading to a tie for fifth.

Now, it's Woods chasing Garcia, who has switched to a longer putter that lodges in his belly. The new club seems to be working; other than a three-putt bogey at No. 4, Garcia's stroke on the green was confident and true.

"I just feel a bit more comfortable than I did with the little putter," he said. "Under pressure, I think I can put a better stroke on it."

Jimenez had one of the best shots of the day, nearly holing out his tee shot at the daunting, 248-yard 16th. It stopped just inches from the cup for a tap-in birdie, on the way to a 70 that had the "Mechanic" solidly in contention for his first major title.

Garcia, Jimenez and all the other Europeans are trying to break the continent's eight-year drought in the majors. Scotland's Paul Lawrie was the last to win one, at this very course in the '99 Open — which, of course, is mostly remembered for its brutal conditions and Jan Van de Velde squandering a three-shot lead on the 72nd hole.

Paul McGinley, a Ryder Cup stalwart for Europe, headed in the same direction as Woods. The Irishman followed up an opening 67 with a 75 on Friday.

A program note: Be sure to tune in for the next episode of "Boo Does Britain."

Boo Weekley, a country boy from the Florida Panhandle, was making quite a splash in his first Open. He may be scared to drive on the left side of the road and not that impressed with British cuisine, but he was doing just fine at Carnoustie with a 2-under 140 that left him four strokes behind Garcia.

Wearing camouflage long johns under his golf attire, Weekley was asked about his impressions of the British Open growing up. "I don't watch golf," he replied. "If it ain't huntin' and fishin,' it don't interest me."

First-day sensation Rory McIlroy, an 18-year-old from Northern Ireland, struggled to a 76 after rousing the galleries with a bogey-free 68. Still, he was assured of being the low amateur since he was the only one to make the cut.

"Just to play the weekend at the Open is fantastic," he said. "Hopefully I can enjoy the next couple of days and play some good golf."

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