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Sports

July 19, 2013

Johnson leads at Muirfield, Woods lurks

GULLANE, Scotland — Zach Johnson and Tiger Woods sure know how to start the British Open.

Now, they’ve got to show they can finish.

Bouncing back from a tough loss last weekend, Johnson opened with a 5-under 66 on a sunny Thursday at Muirfield — another brilliant start after a 65 at Lytham last year.

“I don’t know what the secret is,” Johnson said.

Can he keep it going? A year ago, the 2007 Masters champion followed up with a 74 on the way to a ninth-place finish.

“This game demands resilience,” Johnson said. “That just comes with experience.”

Woods has plenty of experience winning majors — he’s got 14 of ’em — but it’s been more than five years since he captured the last one, the longest drought of his career in the tournaments that matter most.

Woods also got off to a strong start, posting an impressive 69 in the increasingly difficult conditions of the afternoon.

Don’t get too worked up about his chances just yet, however. He shot 67 in the opening round at each of his last two Opens, only to watch someone else leave with the claret jug. Woods faded to 23rd at St. Andrews in 2010, skipped a year because of injuries, and tied for third at Lytham.

This one didn’t begin so well for the world’s top-ranked player. Woods yanked his very first shot off a lone tree far left of the fairway and was forced to take an unplayable lie, leading to bogey. But a stretch of three birdies in four holes after the turn moved Woods into contention, and he added another two-putt birdie at the par-5 17th set up by a couple of iron shots that just kept rolling and rolling on turf that played more like a tabletop.

“It was tough,” Woods said. “The golf course progressively got more dried out and more difficult as we played. I’m very pleased to shoot anything even par or better.”

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