BALTIMORE (AP) - The passes were sharp, the defense sound and the goals plentiful.
The United States couldn't have played much better, and the timing could not have been more perfect.
Clarence Goodson and Joe Corona scored during an eight-minute span of the first half, and the U.S. cruised past El Salvador 5-1 Sunday to advance to the semifinals of the CONCACAF Gold Cup.
Eddie Johnson, Landon Donovan and Mix Diskerud added second-half goals for the Americans, who will next play in Dallas on Wednesday against the winner of the Honduras-Costa Rica match.
Honduras and Costa Rica met Sunday night as part of a doubleheader before a sellout crowd at the home stadium of the Baltimore Ravens.
Assists aren't an official statistic in the Gold Cup, but Donovan set up three scores in a dazzling performance.
"I think Landon proved again today how valuable he is and now he can make a difference," coach Jurgen Klinsmann said. "This game was important for coaches to see who is a difference maker. Overall, we see our team clicking more and playing better and better."
To say the least.
The U.S. has won nine straight full internationals - a record for the country's national team. The Americans have also prevailed in seven of their last eight Gold Cup matches, the exception being a 4-2 loss to Mexico in 2011 final.
"We are trying to catch up with the big teams in the world," Klinsmann said. "It's all about speed. I'm not talking about physical speed. I'm talking about mental speed, passing speed with every player going both ways. That's what we're working to. This is a process and I think that process is coming along."
Rodolfo Zelaya scored for El Salvador, 1-19-7 overall against the U.S.
"Collectively, they're a very good team," El Salvador coach Agustin Castillo said through a translator. "They almost play by memory. They can find the spaces. It almost seems like every time they pass the ball into a space it's going to nobody, then somebody appears and actually meets the ball. Good work, good movement."
And good enough to claim a fifth Gold Cup.
"They're going through a very good time," Castillo said. "They're the best team I've seen in this tournament. They are a candidate to win it all."
Goodson put the U.S. ahead in the 21st minute by converting a crossing pass from Donovan, who gained possession near the end line within 15 feet of the net. It was Goodson's fifth career goal, the second in the Gold Cup.
Minutes later, U.S. goalkeeper Nick Rimando kicked aside a straight-on shot by Lester Blanco Pineda and batted away the subsequent rebound at the right corner of the net.
In the 29th minute, Corona gained possession at the top of the penalty area and used his right foot to line a shot into the left corner of the net for a 2-0 lead.
That drained much of the enthusiasm from the strong contingent of blue-and-white clad El Salvador fans.
The U.S. continued to dominate, and it took several strong saves by Dagoberto Portillo to keep El Salvador within striking distance.
Momentum shifted in the 39th minute, when El Salvador's Rodolfo Zelaya was fouled by DaMarcus Beasley and converted the penalty kick to make it 2-1.
It was perhaps the lone flaw in an otherwise lopsided match.
"The difference today was scoring early goals," Donovan said. "Even though they got a questionable goal back, we still kept going and our effort was really good. Obviously, to score five goals is a bonus."
Johnson added an insurance goal with a header off a pass from Donovan in the 60th minute. The score came 14 seconds after Johnson entered as a substitute.
Donovan converted a breakaway in the 78th minute. He is only player in history to score in six Gold Cup tournaments.
Six minutes later, as a sudden rain shower began to pick up intensity, Diskerud found the back of the net.
Five goals, five scorers. That's balance.
"It seems like we've been playing with each other for a while," Jose Torres said. "We move the ball well, we know each other well - where we're going to move. I think we're looking good right now."
GULLANE, Scotland (AP) - One of the greatest final rounds in a major. Two of the best shots he ever struck with a 3-wood. The third leg of the Grand Slam.
Phil Mickelson never imagined any of this happening at the British Open.
No wonder he never took his hand off the base of that silver claret jug as he talked about the best Sunday he ever had at a major. Five shots out of the lead, Mickelson blew past Tiger Woods, caught up to Lee Westwood and Masters champion Adam Scott, and won golf's oldest championship with the lowest final round in his 80 majors.
With four birdies over the last six holes, Mickelson closed with a 5-under 66 for a three-shot win over Henrik Stenson.
No longer is he mystified by links golf, and he has his name etched in that jug to prove it.
"This is such an accomplishment for me because I just never knew if I'd be able to develop the game to play links golf effectively," Mickelson said. "To play the best round arguably of my career, to putt better than I've ever putted, to shoot the round of my life ... it feels amazing to win the claret jug."
Introduced as the "champion golfer of the year," he held the oldest trophy in golf over his head to show it off to one side of the massive grandstand lining the 18th green at Muirfield, and then the other. An hour earlier, they gave the 43-year-old Mickelson the loudest ovation of the week as he walked up the final fairway.
He drained an 8-foot birdie putt and thrust his arms in the air, hugged caddie Jim "Bones" Mackay and whispered to him, "I did it." After signing for the lowest final round ever at Muirfield, Mickelson huddled with his wife and three children - back from a quick holiday to Spain - for a long embrace and waited for the others to finish.
Westwood, who started the day with a two-shot lead, fell behind for the first time all day with a bogey on the par-3 13th hole and never recovered, closing with a 75.
Scott took the outright lead with a 4-foot birdie on the 11th, and then closed as sloppily as he did last year when he threw away the Open at Royal Lytham & St. Annes. He made four straight bogeys starting at the 13th, and a final bogey on the 18th gave him a 72. At least he has a green jacket from the Master to console him.
Woods, in his best position to win a major since the crisis in his personal life, stumbled badly on his way to a 74 and was never a serious challenger.
"We know that he goes for broke, and if that's how he was feeling and pulling it off, he's got the ability to do that," Scott said about Mickelson. "And he's gone and won an Open easily. So every credit to him."
At the end of a rough-and-tumble week along the Firth of Forth, Mickelson was the only player under par at 3-under 283. In his four other majors - three Masters and one PGA Championship - he had never started the final round more than one shot behind.
"I don't care either way how I got this trophy - I got it," Mickelson said. "And it just so happened to be with one of the best rounds of my career, which is really the way I've played my entire career. I've always tried to go out and get it. I don't want anybody to hand it to me. I want to go out and get it. And today, I did."
Westwood, whose only other 54-hole lead in a major ended with Mickelson winning the Masters, paid tribute to Lefty for what will go down as one of the great closing rounds in a major.
"When you birdie four of the last six of a round any day, that's good going," Westwood said. "With a decent breeze blowing and some tough flags out there, it's obviously a pretty good experience. When you do it in a major championship, it's an even better experience."
But this major? Phil Mickelson?
He had only contended twice in two decades at golf's oldest championship. One week after he won the Scottish Open in a playoff on the links-styled course of Castle Stuart, Mickelson was simply magical on the back nine of a brown, brittle Muirfield course that hasn't played this tough since 1966.
Tied for the lead, Mickelson smashed a 3-wood onto the green at the par-5 17th to about 25 feet for a two-putt birdie, and finished in style with a 10-foot birdie putt on the 18th to match the lowest score of this championship.
"Those two 3-woods were the two best shots of the week, to get it on that green," Mickelson said. "As I was walking up to the green, that was when I realized that this is very much my championship in my control. And I was getting a little emotional. I had to kind of take a second to slow down my walk and try to regain composure."
Mickelson figured a par on the 18th would be tough for anyone to catch him. When the ball dropped in the center of the cup, he raised both arms in the air to celebrate his fifth career major, tying him with the likes of Seve Ballesteros and Byron Nelson.
"Best round I've ever seen him play," said his caddie, Jim "Bones" Mackay.
His final surge was right about the time Westwood and Scott began to fold.
Scott, trying to join an exclusive list of players who have won a green jacket and a claret jug in the same year, made a remarkable recovery from the dunes right of the par-3 13th hole, only to miss the 7-foot par putt. He took three putts for bogeys on the next two holes - from long range on the 14th, and from 20 feet on the 15th - and found a bunker on the next.
Westwood started to lose his grip on the jug with bogeys on the seventh and eighth, and failing to birdie the downwind, par-5 ninth. Presented with birdie chances early on the back nine, his putting stroke began to look tentative.
Westwood and Scott tied for third with Ian Poulter, who played a four-hole stretch in 5-under around the turn and closed with a 67. At 1-over 285, he canceled a flight home in case of a playoff. Moments later, with Mickelson pulling away, the outcome was clear.
Jack Nicklaus said on Twitter, "Phil's round was incredible. After his bad break on 16 and to then get up and down showed a lot of guts. And the two great shots at 17 ended the tournament."
Making this even sweeter for Mickelson is that just one month ago he lost out on yet another chance to win the U.S. Open, the missing link of a career Grand Slam. Mickelson twice made bogey with wedge in his hand on the back nine at Merion and had his record sixth runner-up finish.
Woods, Nicklaus, Gary Player, Ben Hogan and Gene Sarazen are the only players to win all four professional majors. Mickelson figured it would be the British Open that would hold him back. Now he has the jug, and he never took his hand off it during his press conference.
"I think that if I'm able to win the U.S. Open and complete the career Grand Slam, I think that that's the sign of the complete, great player," Mickelson said. "And I'm a leg away. And it's been a tough leg for me."
For now, Mickelson takes his place among an elite list of winners at Muirfield, which is considered the fairest of the links on the British Open rotation. All but two of the Open champions at Muirfield are in the World Hall of Fame. Mickelson is the only winner who already has been inducted.
It was the 43rd win of his PGA Tour career. The guy who once couldn't win the big one now has five majors in the last nine years. This one returns him to No. 2 in the world ranking for the first time in nearly three years.
Woods, meanwhile, now has gone 17 majors without winning, and that pursuit of Nicklaus and his benchmark of 18 majors - Woods is stuck on 14 - doesn't look any closer. He three-putted twice in four holes at the start of the round and looked like just another contender on this Sunday.
He attributed his poor day to not getting the right pace on the greens, which he said were progressively slower.
"I felt like I was really playing well today, actually the whole week, " said Woods, who has not broken 70 in the final round of his last seven majors. "I really hit so many good shots and really had control of my ball this week. As I said, it was just trying to get the speed, and I just didn't get it."
ST. LOUIS (AP) - The St. Louis Cardinals are making the best of the All-Star break with outfielder Matt Holliday, who they believe just needs a little more time to recover from a strained hamstring.
Holliday was placed on the 15-day disabled list on Saturday, retroactive to July 12. The No. 3 hitter had already missed four games after getting hurt running to first on July 11 at Chicago.
"It was that missing 10-20 percent where he still felt a little something," manager Mike Matheny said. "We just had too many things going in our favor, all the time that's already passed, the break, a day off on Monday."
Matheny didn't want to risk keeping Holliday active to pinch hit, knowing players have a hard time throttling back.
"If it's a big run, it's the last out of the game, when you kick it in gear and you might be safe and we win, how do you not?" Matheny said.
The team purchased the contract of first baseman/outfielder Brock Peterson, a Pacific Coast League All-Star at Triple-A Memphis, in time for Saturday night's game against the Padres. Carlos Beltran batted third.
The 33-year-old Holliday, a career .310 hitter, is batting .268 with 13 home runs and 47 RBIs.
The 29-year-old Peterson was batting .306 and led the PCL with 22 homers to go with 66 RBIs in 93 games at Memphis and is making his major league debut.
"His eyes are spinning a little bit now, and rightfully so," Matheny said. "He's very excited and it's just a great story. But nothing's been given to him, he's had a tremendous season and I think he'll fit in well with what we're looking to do."
ST. LOUIS (AP) - Edinson Volquez was bailed out by his bullpen and earned the victory in San Diego's 5-3 win over the St. Louis Cardinals on Saturday night.
Nick Vincent, Dale Thayer, Luke Gregorson and Huston Street worked an inning apiece after Volquez (7-8) faded at the end of a five-inning outing. Street was perfect in the ninth for his 16th save in 17 chances after Carlos Quentin's RBI double off Trevor Rosenthal in the ninth put the Padres up by two runs.
Lance Lynn (11-5) lost for the fourth time in five starts, allowing four runs in five innings. Allen Craig had a two-run single and 29-year-old rookie Brock Peterson had an RBI groundout in his first major league at-bat after getting called up to replace injured Matt Holliday.
Jedd Gyorko, Everth Cabrera and Nick Hundley added an RBI apiece for San Diego, which had lost 19 of 23.
ST. LOUIS (AP) -- Jake Westbrook pitched 6 1-3 innings of two-run ball and contributed three hits, All-Star Matt Carpenter continued his strong season with three hits and three RBIs, and the St. Louis Cardinals beat the San Diego Padres 9-6 on Friday night.
A career .116 hitter, Westbrook had never had more than one hit in a game. The right-hander, who scored twice and had an RBI, surpassed his hit output for the year with two singles and a double in his three at-bats. That raised his batting from .100 to .217.
On the mound, Westbrook (6-4) scattered eight hits while striking out one and walking four.
After rookie Carlos Martinez allowed three runs in the ninth to make it a three-run game, All-Star Edward Mujica got the last two outs to record his 27th save in 29 chances.
Fellow All-Stars Carlos Beltran and Yadier Molina each drove in two runs for the Cardinals, with Beltran contributing two sacrifice flies and Molina a two-run double in the seventh.
St. Louis reached a season-best 22 games over .500 (58-36) and owns the best winning percentage in the majors (.617).
The Padres' lone All-Star representative, Everth Cabrera, drove in two runs with a two-run single off Westbrook in the seventh. San Diego, which lost 18 of 22 to conclude the first half, fell to 15-32 on the road and 74-149 in St. Louis (6-19 at new Busch Stadium).
Former Cardinal Jason Marquis (9-5) lost his third straight. Marquis, who has not won since beating Arizona 6-4 on June 15, was touched for six runs on eight hits and three walks.
Marquis blanked the Cardinals the first two innings before Westbrook led off the third with a single to center. He later scored on Beltran's sacrifice fly to center.
Two innings later, Westbrook started another rally when he doubled over right fielder Will Venable's head to begin the fifth. Carpenter followed with an RBI double to the gap in left center and he scored on Beltran's sacrifice fly one out later that made it 3-0.
The Cardinals broke it open and chased Marquis by scoring three times in the sixth. With the bases loaded and one out, Westbrook coaxed a single through the middle to drive in Matt Adams. Carpenter then drove home two more with an RBI single to center.
Notes: Edinson Volquez (6-8), who set a new career high by making 20 starts in the first half, pitches his first game in the second half when he faces the Cardinals' Lance Lynn (11-4) Saturday night. . . . San Diego started a 10-day, 10-game road trip Friday. The Padres were 1-9 on their last 10-game trip. . . . Cardinals outfielder Matt Holliday missed his fourth straight game due to a lingering right hamstring issue. . . . Padres outfielder Jedd Gyorko was 0-for-12 since coming off the DL before singling in the fourth. . . . Molina double in the seventh was his 28th, matching his output last year.
ST. LOUIS – The St. Louis Blues and the National Hockey League have released the 2013-14 regular season schedule.
The Blues will open the season at home on Thursday, October 3 against Nashville, which begins five consecutive games at Scottrade Center. Florida Panthers (Oct. 5), Chicago Blackhawks (Oct. 9), New York Rangers (Oct. 12) and the San Jose Sharks (Oct. 15) will complete the home stand. The Blues’ first road trip consists of back-to-back games on Thursday, October 17 and Friday, October 18 against Chicago and the Winnipeg Jets, respectively. The Blues fan friendly schedule features a total of 15 home games on Friday, Saturday or Sunday.
Under the National Hockey League’s recent realignment, the Blues will play in the Western Conference’s Central Division along with Chicago, Colorado, Dallas, Minnesota, Nashville and Winnipeg. St. Louis plays five games against Chicago, Dallas, Minnesota, Nashville and Winnipeg, while they face Colorado four times. The Blues face each of their non-Division Conference rivals three times and play a Home/Away series with each Eastern Conference team.
2013-14 St. Louis Blues Regular Season Schedule
(All Times Central Standard Time)
DATE OPPONENT TIME DATE OPPONENT TIME
*Sun. Sept. 15 At Dallas 6:00PM *Sat. Sept. 21 Dallas 7:00PM
*Wed. Sept. 18 At TB (Orlando) 6:00PM *Wed. Sept. 25 At Minnesota 7:00PM
*Fri. Sept. 20 Tampa Bay 7:00PM *Fri. Sept. 27 Minnesota 7:00PM
Thu. Oct. 03 Nashville 7:00PM Tue. Jan. 07 At Edmonton 8:30PM
Sat. Oct. 05 Florida 7:00PM Thu. Jan. 09 At Calgary 8:00PM
Wed. Oct. 09 Chicago 7:00PM Fri. Jan. 10 At Vancouver 9:00PM
Sat. Oct. 12 N.Y. Rangers 7:00PM Tue. Jan. 14 Phoenix 7:00PM
Tue. Oct. 15 San Jose 7:00PM Thu. Jan. 16 Los Angeles 7:00PM
Thu. Oct. 17 At Chicago 7:00PM Sat. Jan. 18 Anaheim 7:00PM
Fri. Oct. 18 At Winnipeg 7:00PM Mon. Jan. 20 At Detroit 6:30PM
Fri. Oct. 25 Vancouver 7:00PM Tue. Jan. 21 At New Jersey 6:00PM
Sat. Oct. 26 At Nashville 7:00PM Thu. Jan. 23 At NY Rangers 6:00PM
Tue. Oct. 29 Winnipeg 7:00PM Sat. Jan. 25 At NY Islanders 12:00PM
Fri. Nov. 01 At Florida 6:30PM Tue. Jan. 28 New Jersey 7:00PM
Sat. Nov. 02 At Tampa Bay 6:00PM Fri. Jan. 31 At Carolina 6:00PM
Tue. Nov. 05 At Montreal 6:30PM Sat. Feb. 01 Nashville 7:00PM
Thu. Nov. 07 Calgary 7:00PM Tue. Feb. 04 Ottawa 7:00PM
Sat. Nov. 09 Pittsburgh 7:00PM Thu. Feb. 06 Boston 7:00PM
Tue. Nov. 12 Phoenix 7:00PM Sat. Feb. 08 Winnipeg 1:00PM
Thu. Nov. 14 Colorado 7:00PM Wed. Feb. 26 At Vancouver 9:30PM
Sat. Nov. 16 Carolina 7:00PM Fri. Feb. 28 At Anaheim 9:00PM
Sun. Nov. 17 At Washington 5:00PM Sun. Mar. 02 At Phoenix 7:00PM
Tue. Nov. 19 At Buffalo 6:00PM Tue. Mar. 04 Tampa Bay 7:00PM
Thu. Nov. 21 At Boston 6:00PM Thu. Mar. 06 At Nashville 7:00PM
Sat. Nov. 23 Dallas 7:00PM Sat. Mar. 08 At Colorado 2:00PM
Mon. Nov. 25 Minnesota 7:00PM Sun. Mar. 09 At Minnesota 7:00PM
Wed. Nov. 27 At Colorado 8:00PM Tue. Mar. 11 Dallas 7:00PM
Fri. Nov. 29 At San Jose 3:00PM Thu. Mar. 13 Edmonton 7:00PM
Mon. Dec. 02 At Los Angeles 9:30PM Sat. Mar. 15 At Nashville 7:00PM
Thu. Dec. 05 N.Y. Islanders 7:00PM Mon. Mar. 17 Winnipeg 7:00PM
Sat. Dec. 07 Anaheim 7:00PM Wed. Mar. 19 At Chicago 7:00PM
Tue. Dec. 10 At Winnipeg 7:00PM Sat. Mar. 22 At Philadelphia 12:00PM
Thu. Dec. 12 Toronto 7:00PM Sun. Mar. 23 At Pittsburgh 12:00PM
Sat. Dec. 14 At Columbus 6:00PM Tue. Mar. 25 At Toronto 6:00PM
Mon. Dec. 16 At Ottawa 6:30PM Thu. Mar. 27 Minnesota 7:00PM
Tue. Dec. 17 San Jose 7:00PM Sat. Mar. 29 Dallas 7:00PM
Thu. Dec. 19 Montreal 7:00PM Tue. Apr. 01 Philadelphia 7:00PM
Sat. Dec. 21 At Edmonton 9:00PM Thu. Apr. 03 Buffalo 7:00PM
Mon. Dec. 23 At Calgary 8:00PM Sat. Apr. 05 Colorado 1:00PM
Sat. Dec. 28 Chicago 7:00PM Sun. Apr. 06 At Chicago 6:30PM
Sun. Dec. 29 At Dallas 5:00PM Tue. Apr. 08 Washington 7:00PM
Tue. Dec. 31 At Minnesota 5:00PM Thu. Apr. 10 At Minnesota 7:00PM
Thu. Jan. 02 Los Angeles 7:00PM Fri. Apr. 11 At Dallas 7:30PM
Sat. Jan. 04 Columbus 7:00PM Sun. Apr. 13 Detroit 2:00PM
ST. LOUIS – St. Louis Blues Executive Vice President and General Manager Doug Armstrong announced today the club has re-signed forward Chris STewart to a two-year contract.
“We’re excited to have Chris signed for the next two seasons,” said Armstrong. “He led our team in scoring last season and is entering the prime of his career. We are expecting big things from him as he continues to grow with our club.”
Stewart, 25, dressed in all 48 games this season leading the Blues with 36 points, 18 goals and six power play goals while tying for the team lead with three game-winning goals and tying for fourth with 18 assists. In the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Stewart posted one assist and tied for second on the club with 17 shots in six appearances.
Stewart appeared in his first game with the Blues on Feb. 19, 2010 vs. Anaheim and became just the 5th player in franchise history to score two goals in his debut. In addition, he posted six goals in his first five games with the Blues marking the best start to a career in franchise history. Since entering the National Hockey League (NHL) in 2008, Stewart is one of 12 players with at least 200 points and 300 penalty minutes.
Overall, the 6’2, 231-pound forward has appeared in five NHL seasons accumulating 202 points including 100 goals and 102 assists to go along with 329 penalty minutes in 319 career regular season games while tallying six points (five goals, one assist) in 19 career postseason games.
The Toronto, Ontario native was originally acquired by the Blues along with Kevin Shattenkirk from Colorado on Feb. 19, 2011. He was drafted by Colorado in the first round, 18th overall, of the 2006 Entry Draft.
The Blues have released their schedule for next season.
The Note kick off the season October 3 against the Nashville Predators. Then on October 9, the Blues play host to the defending Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks. The two teams meet up a total of five times this season with four of the matchups being played at Scottrade.
The NHL's realignment, puts the Blues in the Western Conference’s Central Division along with Chicago, Colorado, Dallas, Minnesota, Nashville and Winnipeg.
The major championships are usually grinds, but for anyone playing in the afternoon Thursday the first round of the British Open proved more of a test than ever. The wind was blowing harder than expected, the golf course was drying up by the minute, and anything around par was a score to be respected.
And there was Woods, feeling awfully good about a 2-under 69 that had to give him hope his five-year drought in the major championships might come to an end this week on a golf course playing like it is in the middle of a drought.
"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."
A day that began with a near catastrophe off the first tee ended with a six-footer that found the center of the cup on the 18th green. Hardly surprising since Woods had 10 one-putts as he scrambled his way around the links course for one of the better scores of the afternoon.
He was three shots off the lead set by Zach Johnson, who was part of a morning surge of players who took advantage of easier conditions to set the pace. More importantly, perhaps, Woods has a morning tee time of his own Friday on a course that at least for the first day was set up to favor the early players.
"The guys that played early had a huge, huge break," Phil Mickelson said after shooting a 69 himself in the morning. "Because even without any wind, it's beyond difficult."
That Woods managed to break 70 in the afternoon was impressive enough. That he did it after nearly snap hooking a 3-wood out of bounds on his opening tee shot and having to take an unplayable when the ball nestled in a deep clump of unruly grass was doubly so.
"When I got over that tee shot I was (thinking), if I hammer it, this 3-wood is in that bunker," Woods said. "So maybe I should take something off it. Maybe I should hit 5-wood. Hence I hit a flip hook left and there she goes."
Woods somehow managed to make a bogey five on the first hole even with a penalty shot by hitting his third into a greenside bunker and getting up-and-down. It set the pattern for a day of one-putts that not only prevented the round from getting away from him, but put him in prime position going into the second round.
"We're supposed to get a different wind tomorrow," Woods said. "It will be interesting to see what the course setup is."
Just how tough was Muirfield in the afternoon? So tough that the threesome Woods was playing in became a twosome when former champion Louis Oosthuizen withdrew on the ninth hole with an apparent injury after going 4-over-par through eight holes.
So tough that his other playing partner, Graeme McDowell made two double bogeys and shot a 75 despite feeling he played well.
So tough that Woods was 1-over at the turn before one-putting the next four holes to spark a 3-under 32 on the back nine.
"Tiger played phenomenally well for his 2-under par," McDowell said. "Really ground it out well, did what he did best."
Playing well early in majors hasn't been the issue for Woods in recent times, though. Closing it out on the weekend has been, the main reason why he's still stuck at 14 major championships and hasn't won one since beating Rocco Mediate on one leg in the 2008 U.S. Open.
Last year he opened the British with a pair of 67s only to fade to a tie for third place behind Ernie Els. This year he was in the mix at the U.S. Open before shooting 76-74 on the weekend.
He came here well rested and healed up from a strained elbow that was acting up at the U.S. Open, his last competitive event. He also came with the knowledge gained from years of playing links style golf on this side of the pond, including his two wins at St. Andrews and his other win at Hoylake near Liverpool.
"They're so different, so different," Woods said. "I mean, this is almost - it's about as fast as Hoylake was. But there's knee-high rough here. And plus this golf course changes directions a lot. This is a totally different setup."
Not so different, though, that Woods doesn't like his chances of winning a fourth claret jug.
Not that it was bothering Lee Westwood.
The 40-year-old Englishman surged up the leaderboard at the British Open on Friday, putting up a blistering 5-under 31 on the front side to climb within one shot of first-round leader Zach Johnson.
Westwood, who opened with a 1-over 72, started the second round with two straight birdies to get into the red numbers. He also birdied the eighth, and took advantage of both par-5s to push his overall score to 4 under.
The last English golfer to win the British Open was Nick Faldo in 1992.
Tiger Woods was trying to break a drought of his own. The most recent of his 14 major titles came at the 2008 U.S. Open, but he's 0-for-20 since then. Despite taking a bogey at the fourth, where he lipped out a 2 1/2-foot putt, he approached the turn still even on the day, 2 under for the tournament and solidly in the hunt to get his name on the claret jug for the fourth time.
The weather has been unseasonably warm and dry, the fearsome wind not much more than a gentle breeze, and it was expected to stay that way through the weekend. Even so, there weren't many chances for going low, not on a course that is more brown than green, with pin conditions that some players complained were downright unfair.
Even though he opened with a 2-under 69, Phil Mickelson was concerned about some hole locations being too close to the edge of slopes. He pleaded with the Royal & Ancient to let go of its ego and "just set the course up the way the best players can win."
Mark O'Meara, the 1998 Open champion, countered that he's played in much tougher conditions, perhaps emboldened by a surprising 67 that left him just one stroke behind Johnson. But the course bit back on Friday, sending the 56-year-old tumbling out of contention. He lost his ball at No. 6, leading to a double-bogey, and staggered to the finish with a 78.
Jordan Spieth also felt Muirfield's bite. The 19-year-old, who last weekend became the PGA Tour's youngest winner since 1931, made only two bogeys through his first 32 holes and was 3 under. Then, a double-bogey at the 15th, followed by a bogey at No. 16.
Just like that, the youngster was back to even par.
Then there was Darren Clarke, the surprise Open champion in 2011 but mostly an afterthought since then. The Northern Irishman made four birdies on the front side. Unfortunately for him, all that good work was wiped out by one bad hole - a quadruple-bogey 8 at the sixth.
Johnson, who had an afternoon tee time, had not been atop the leaderboard at any major since he rallied to win the Masters six years ago. He took advantage of kinder conditions Thursday morning to shoot a 66, helped along by a 45-foot eagle putt. He made only one bogey despite trouble lurking around every pot bunker.
"Anytime you shoot under par in an Open - or a major, for that matter - you have to be putting at least somewhat decent," said Johnson, who lost to Spieth in a playoff at the John Deere Classic after making bogey on the 72nd hole. "And I putted great. I made some nice birdie putts and obviously that one for eagle. But I struck some really nice, solid par putts. That's what you've got to do to stay in it."
It was an eclectic group setting the early pace, from major champions to players making their British Open debut. What they all had in common was finding a way to get through a firm, fast and frightening setup that figures to get even harder if the R&A doesn't put some water on the course.
"I haven't seen anything like this," said Brandt Snedeker, among those who opened with a 68. "This is completely new to me - foreign to see a 2-iron going 300 yards. You have got to be wary of how you're shaping your golf ball, and what shot selections you're using on the greens."
Snedeker could find things even tougher on Friday, when he was set to tee off in the afternoon. Rafael Cabrera-Bello (67), Miguel Angel Jimenez (68) and Dustin Johnson (68) also had later start times.
As for Rory McIlroy, it doesn't seem to matter when he plays. He struggled to a 79 in the opening round, his highest score at the Open since that 80 in the vicious wind of St. Andrews in 2010. The former world No. 1 has been in a baffling slump since his runaway victory at last year's PGA Championship, and it looked as though he'll be spending another weekend at home.
At least he had some company.
Luke Donald, another former No. 1 player in the world, shot 80. Faldo celebrated his 56th birthday with a 79 on the links where he won two of his three claret jugs.
Ninety-eight players in the 156-man field had at least a double-bogey on their scorecards after Day 1. Former U.S. Open champion Lucas Glover might have summed it up best when he took to Twitter after opening with an 80.
"Muirfield 1, Me 0." ---