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July 20, 2013

Jimenez finds the fun in a tough day at Muirfield

GULLANE, Scotland — Miguel Angel Jimenez looked like the only guy who was having fun.

On a punishing day at Muirfield — the course with a reputation as the fairest links of them all — leave it to a 49-year-old Spaniard who enjoys the simple pleasures in life to make such a demanding test at the British Open seem like just another round of golf.

There was calamity all around him Friday.

Zach Johnson lost the lead with a three-putt from 10 feet. Brandt Snedeker, regarded as one of the best putters in golf, took four putts from 15 feet. Tiger Woods played well enough to be only one shot behind and rarely smiled.

Jimenez, with his frizzy red hair bunched into a ponytail, made his way around Muirfield with only two bogeys for an even-par 71 that gave him a one-shot lead over Woods, Lee Westwood, Henrik Stenson and Dustin Johnson going into the weekend.

What’s a 49-year-old doing with the 36-hole lead at the British Open?

“Why? I have not the right to do it? Only the young people can do it?” Jimenez said. “Why? I’m fine. We keep playing golf and still get myself on the golf course, and that’s the secret. Enjoy yourself what you do in life. That’s what I’m doing.”

For so many others, it was tough to enjoy anything about a course that brought the easterly wind for the first time all week, and greens that hit warp speed even after tournament officials hand-watered the putting surfaces overnight.

Woods went 12 holes without a birdie, saving his round with a collection of tough pars, and he finished with a 6-iron from 212 yards to 15 feet for a birdie and a 71. Westwood matched the best round of the day with a 68, while Stenson had a 70. Both of them had a double bogey on their cards. Dustin Johnson got himself into such a predicament on the 15th that his only option from a bunker was to aim sideways into the rough. He shot 72.

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