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Brandt Snedeker takes lead at British Open with record-tying score

LYTHAM ST. ANNES, England — Brandt Snedeker plays fast and talks even faster, and he was on a roll Friday in the British Open. He raced up the leaderboard with five birdies in a seven-hole stretch, tied the 36-hole record for a major championship and looked like he was bent on running away from the field at Royal Lytham & St. Annes.

Not so fast.

Along came first-round leader Adam Scott, playing cautiously and picking his spots for three birdies on the back nine to finish the second round one shot off the lead. Four shots back was Tiger Woods, sticking to a conservative game plan and delivering a dramatic finish by holing out from the bunker at No. 18 to set off a wild cheer from 6,000 spectators crammed into the bleachers.

On another benign weather day when the only concern was pools forming in the bottom of pot bunkers from overnight rain, Snedeker became the latest player to match the course record with a 6-under 64.

The Nashville native didn't make a bogey over 36 holes, the first player to go bogey-free in a major's first two rounds since Woods won the Open at St. Andrews in 2000.

Snedeker's 10-under 130 tied the 36-hole record set by Nick Faldo in 1992 when he won the Open at Muirfield, and it broke by four shots the 36-hole record at Royal Lytham. Even more impressive was that Snedeker didn't hit into any of the 206 bunkers in two days.

"I'm sure everybody in this (post-round news conference) is in about as much shock as I am right now," quipped Snedeker, 31, who had missed the cut in his three previous Open appearances. "I'm not by any means hitting it on all cylinders. I'm making every 25-footer I look at, so that makes it a lot easier."

Snedeker is a well-established threat. He was the PGA Tour's rookie of the year in 2007. In 2008 he made a run at the Masters, finishing third. Snedeker broke down in tears after the final round, burying his head in a towel during a news conference.

That got a lot of sympathetic mail sent his way. Snedeker said Friday it felt like that happened a long time ago. "I've lost a lot since then, gotten used to it."

He has won three times on the tour, including at the Farmers Insurance Open in January at San Diego. He has also been a consistent top-20 finisher at majors, though he missed this year's U.S. Open when he broke a rib while coughing.

"Thank you for laughing, whoever that was," he said after explaining the injury's source.

Scott, who had 64 on Thursday, finished with 3-under 67 and has never been in such good shape at a major going into the weekend. Woods had his second straight 67, the eighth time he opened a major with two rounds in the 60s. He went on to win the seven previous times, including all three of his British Open titles.

"I figured I had a game plan that I thought would fit well on this golf course, and I figured I could execute it," Woods said. "And I've done that so far."

The cut was 3-over 143, the 13-shot separation speaking to how well Snedeker played. Phil Mickelson never had a chance, taking three double bogeys for 78 to end his streak of 18 consecutive cuts in the majors that dated to the British Open at Carnoustie five years ago.

Tom Watson, 62, extended his record as the oldest player to make the weekend since the Open went to a 36-hole cut by holing a 35-foot birdie putt on No. 18.

Brandt Snedeker takes lead at British Open with record-tying score 07/20/12 [Last modified: Saturday, July 21, 2012 12:55am]
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