Late birdies bring out the Tiger roar
Snedeker seizes lead while Mickelson misses cut
Tiger Woods's second round at the British Open was progressing in a very predictable manner on a warm and still Friday afternoon until he reached the 16th hole.
Iron into fairway, iron on to green and two putts was the former world number one's favoured routine as he plotted his way carefully around the Lytham links.
But when the 14-times Major winner holed a lengthy birdie putt on the par-four to wake the course from its early evening slumber suddenly the following masses were buzzing again.
The biggest roar, from the crowd and the former world number one himself, was reserved for the 18th, where Woods chipped out from a greenside bunker for another birdie to card a second consecutive three-under 67 and move to four off the lead.
"It wasn't so bad. It wasn't as hard as it may have looked," Woods told reporters of his bunker shot that left onlooking fans open-jawed in amazement.
"Because I was on the upslope I could take out that steepness coming off the bunker and land the ball on the flat. So I just threw it up there and I played about a cup outside the left and it landed on my spot and rolled to the right."
Not many others could have pulled it off and even Woods's face wore an almost apologetic look as he nodded to the galleries and laughed to himself.
"I'm very pleased at where I'm at. We're at the halfway point and I'm right there in the mix."
Until the final three holes the American's second round had been a procession of sensible iron shots off tees and little drama.
Woods started brightly to be two under through six holes and the same fever as Thursday gripped the following hoards, most of whom were told repeatedly to "put away their cameras" by exasperated marshals.
A number of incidents followed where either Woods or playing partners Justin Rose and Sergio Garcia had to back off hitting shots as officials pleaded with the public to stop photographing the players.
The clamour soon went away once Woods again settled into a routine of par golf, only stumbling briefly at the long par-five 11th where he slashed from the right-hand rough into the left-hand hay for a bogey.
Crucially, however, Woods appeared relaxed, calling out "Shot" to world number nine Rose after the Englishman pitched accurately at the flag on 11 to set up a birdie chance.
Woods followed him through the green in four, but he took his medicine and moved on, awaiting his chance to post red numbers.
"It's just patience on a golf course like this," he said. "I'm hitting the ball in the fairway and that's the thing around this golf course, you just have to do that.
"You can't control it out of the rough here. It's just unbelievable. It's so long that it doesn't grab the hosel, it grabs shafts.
"So you've just got to make sure that whatever line you decide to go on, be committed and hit it good."
Woods will not want to find the rough again. Twice it has cost him shots so do not expect the 36-year-old to treat the crowds with booming drives as he seeks to reel in leader Brandt Snedeker and Adam Scott.
"You can hit drivers down there and some guys did. Or you can be more conservative. It allows you to play whatever way you want."
Snedeker, who missed the cut in his three previous British Opens, made amends in thrilling fashion by seizing the lead with a six-under-par 64 in Friday's second round.
While the majority of the field seemed stuck in reverse gear on a calm day at Royal Lytham & St Annes, the 31-year-old accelerated clear with a record-equalling 36-hole total of 10-under 130.
Overnight leader Adam Scott birdied the 18th to add a 67 to his opening 64 and former world number one Tiger Woods (67) sprinkled his own special brand of stardust by holing out from a greenside bunker at the last to move into third place on 134.
Young Dane Thorbjorn Olesen (66) was fourth on 135, one ahead of a cluster of players including 1999 champion Paul Lawrie (71) and 2010 U.S. Open winner Graeme McDowell (69).
"My mantra all week has been to get the ball on the greens as fast as possible," Snedeker told reporters.
"Once I'm on there I have a pretty good handle for the speed of the greens and I'm just going to try and keep doing that over the weekend."
Several high-profile players missed the cut, among them former world number two Phil Mickelson, who tumbled to a 78 for 11-over 151 to continue his dismal record in the tournament.
Defending champion Darren Clarke also failed to make the weekend along with former world number one Martin Kaymer, Sergio Garcia, Justin Rose and Charl Schwartzel.
World number three Lee Westwood parred the last four holes to scrape through by the skin of his teeth on 143 and second-ranked Rory McIlroy struggled to a 75 for 142.
Luke Donald (68), the world number one, notched four birdies in an outstanding five-hole burst from the fourth as he remained on the fringes of contention on 138.
Snedeker, who won the Farmers Insurance Open in California in January, reaped a rich harvest of birdies after ramming in a confidence-boosting 25-footer at the par-three first.
With most of his rivals toiling as light winds changed direction and organisers placed the flags in awkward spots on faster greens, Snedeker charged five strokes in front at one stage.
The blond American struck laser-guided approach shots at the sixth, seventh and ninth holes to set up three more birdie opportunities he gratefully devoured as he raced to the turn in 30.
Snedeker, who has never won a major and missed the cut at the 2008, 2009 and 2011 Opens, made further inroads at the 11th and 12th before showing the touch of a master to get down in two from thick greenside rough at the 15th.
The American, who had a hole-in-one at the par-four 16th in practice on Wednesday, signed off with three more regulation figures to tie triple Open champion Nick Faldo's 36-hole aggregate of 130 at Muirfield in 1992.
"I've got a cushion now," said Snedeker. "I don't have to play the best golf over the next 36 holes.
"I have to play good golf but maybe not the best of anybody. The fans over here are great, very knowledgeable, and they applaud for great shots and it's good to realise that a 25‑footer sometimes is a great shot."
World number 13 Scott has also yet to land his first major but feels he is ready to achieve the breakthrough.
"This week is kind of a culmination of everything I've done over the last couple of years," said the Australian who turned 32 on Monday.
"I feel like this is the path I've been going down and it's happened here that I've put myself in good position after two days at a major. I think it's just the practice adds up and eventually pays off."
Woods, dressed in all-grey as he attempted to end a four-year major drought, played down his exquisite bunker shot at the last.
"It wasn't as hard as it may have looked," said the 36-year-old American. "Because I was on the upslope I could take out that steepness coming off the bunker and land the ball on the flat.
"I just threw it up there and I played about a cup outside the left lip and it landed on my spot."
Britain's Richard Finch had the misfortune to take 10 at the par-four eighth on the way to a 79.