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Veteran Jimenez leads at halfway as Woods well-placed for challenge

updated 5:19 PM EDT, Fri July 19, 2013
Miguel Angel Jimenez put up another superb display at Muirfield to claim the halfway lead at the British Open.
Miguel Angel Jimenez put up another superb display at Muirfield to claim the halfway lead at the British Open.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • 49-year-old Miguel Angel Jimenez leads British Open
  • Popular Spaniard on 139 -- three under par -- at Muirfield
  • Tiger Woods firmly in contention just one adrift
  • Phil Mickelson drops back after four-putt green

(CNN) -- 49 years of age and still going strong, Spain's Miguel Angel Jimenez delighted the Muirfield galleries to lead the British Open at the halfway stage Friday.

Jimenez, a real crowd favorite with his flamboyant approach both on and off the course, drew on all his experience to card a level-par 71 for three-under 139.

A strengthening wind and fast running greens and fairways made the famous links course in East Lothian a brutal test, with only a few golfers passing a stern examination.

Read: There's more to life than golf, says Jimenez

Among them, chasing his elusive 15th major, was World No.1 Tiger Woods, who also carded a 71 to be in a select group on two-under, one off the lead.

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Woods rolled in a confidence boosting birdie on the 18th and admitted conditions had been tough.

"It was difficult out there today," he told gathered reporters.

Woods said patience would be the key over the weekend with conditions predicted to stay the same. "Just continue plodding along. Just continue being patient, putting the ball in the right spots," he said. "We're not going to get a lot of opportunities out there."

Woods has good company in the chasing group with 40-year-old Englishman Lee Westwood, who shot a joint best of the day 68, Swede Henrik Stenson and fellow American Dustin Johnson.

Overnight leader Zach Johnson fell away with a 75 but is still in contention in the pack at one-under-par with Scotland's Martin Laird, Rafael Cabrera-Bello of Spain and Argentine veteran Angel Cabrera.

Read: Mickelson warms up with Scottish win

Jimenez, who became the oldest winner on the European Tour earlier this season, said age should not be a barrier to success on the course.

"Only the young people can do it? I love what I'm doing. I play golf for a living. Same thing 25 years. I enjoy myself," he told the official British Open website.

"I keep elastic and flexible. I'm still able to shoot low and still here. Tomorrow if I cannot shoot low, I will not be here, you don't worry," he added with a smile.

American Phil Mickelson looked set to take closer order, but a four-putt nightmare on the 16th showed the speed of the surfaces and set him back in his tracks.

Only the young people can do it? I love what I'm doing. I play golf for a living. Same thing 25 years. I enjoy myself
Miguel Angel Jimenez

He ended with a three-over 74 for one-over 143, bracketed with reigning Masters champion Adam Scott of Australia, former Masters winners Bubba Watson and Charl Schwartzel, 2011 British Open winner Darren Clarke and England's Ian Poulter.

Read: 'Brain dead' play costs McIlroy at Muirfield

But there will be no back to back major wins for Justin Rose as the English star missed the cut after his Merion heroics at the U.S. Open.

Former World No.1's Rory McIlroy and Luke Donald will also not be around for the weekend despite the cut being made at seven-over-par.

But defending champion Ernie Els of South Africa scraped in at six-over, along with former winners Padraig Harrington and Sandy Lyle.

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