Superb Woods chooses historic day to drive home advantage

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The Independent Online

The 29-year-old recorded a 67 to move to 11 under and put enough daylight between himself and the pack to make it appear unbreachable. To say it was effortless would be slightly misleading as hitting the ball 391 yards - as he did on the 10th, one of three par-fours on which he drove the green yesterday - could never be that. What it can be, however, is merely what the player expected of himself and that it was not even that for Woods yesterday - the wild hook at the 18th bringing a scowl just as wide - simply highlighted the great gulf in class between the world No 1 and all those beneath him.

True, there were some big names who will claim they are still within shouting distance; Vijay Singh at six under after a second successive 69 and out on the course Colin Montgomerie was putting the roar back into the Scottish brogue moving to six under with three holes to go. But even someone of Montgomerie's vocal capabilities will have to come up with a big shout to get in with a shout. Because in this mood, in this form, on this links, Woods looks nigh on unbeatable, as much as he ever has in his previous nine majors.

If Singh and Co doubt this, then they should consider that Woods in his bogeyless procession yesterday did not hole a putt of longer than five feet, but still notched up five birdies. How? Easy when you drive the aforementioned greens at the ninth (352 yards), the 10th and the 12th (348 yards) and when you are also reaching the two par-fives in two - the fifth (568 yards) and the 14th (618 yards). It is not quite pitch and putt, but it is as close as you will ever see on a Championship lay-out of 7,279 yards.

The rest might also take notice that his two-round total of 133 is spookily the same as it was in 2000. He won his first claret jug that year by eight shots. Not only that but Woods's game seems even more suited to the Old Course after the Royal and Ancient added their 164 yards in their laughable attempts to "Tiger-proof" it. They might as well have moved it to his back yard in Florida and then he really could have called it home.

Even the treacherous Road Hole could not withstand his irresistible advances, rolling over like a puppy dog and being tickled into yielding a birdie chance for Woods from just six feet. Fortunately for the 17th's reputation he missed it. Goodness knows what he would have shot if his putter had been firing.

Singh, himself, moaned about "leaving too many putts out there" and the Fijian will long rue the missed six-footer on the last, not least because of the psychological advantage it gave Woods. At the time, the nine-times major winner was waiting on the first tee and glanced over at Singh as the birdie putt slipped by and then quickly at the leaderboard to his right. It told him that no one had yet passed his overnight lead of six-under and nobody would, of course, all day.

In the clubhouse with Singh came Woods's two playing partners, Robert Allenby and Jose Maria Olazabal, the young South African Trevor Immelman, the popular American Brad Faxon and the New Zealander Peter Londard.

Meanwhile Monty was providing a glorious alternative to the Jack and Tiger Show by screeching to the turn in 32 and continuing the good work with another birdie at the 10th and further ones at the 14th and 15th to negate a few bogeys. And it did not end there for the success-starved Tartan army as Eric Ramsay was still in the midst of his wonderland to stay at four under after 11.

If the 24-year-old from Carnoustie dared to take a reality check he would have marvelled at the names below him. Phil Mickelson and Ernie Els were at three under, after both compiling 67s, and one ahead of them was John Daly, the 1995 champion here, who showed his love of the old lady with his three-under round. The authorities may not care for him but the fans certainly do and he proved why when answering why it was he "snubbed" the Champions' Dinner on Tuesday when his place was left empty. "I don't do dinners man," he said. "You ain't getting no shirt and tie on this fat boy."

In contrast, Luke Donald is the R & A dream dinner guest - not flash, not brash, just panache - but they will likely have to wait to host him after his never-nearer 73 left him eight shots adrift. At least the 27-year-old has made a cut in his sixth Open and as that moment on the Swilken Bridge with Nicklaus and Tom Watson was not entirely conducive to a young professional focused on eking out the best score possible it was not too disastrous. And he can always say he was there when Jack so poignantly said goodbye.

Few would have noticed but David Toms had bid his own adios that morning with a piece of sportsmanship that will thrill the lovers of all that is holy in this great old game. The 2001 USPGA winner rang the officials first thing after having a sleepless night thinking whether he might have hit a moving ball while tapping in for double-bogey on the 17th in his first-round 74. "It was just one of those iffy areas about whether or not a rule was violated, and I was the only one that saw it," Toms said. "I just felt it was better that I disqualified myself."

Before he left, the 38-year-old admitted it was a cruel game and how cruel Mark Hensby was just about to discover.

The Australian began the second round as Woods' closest challenger, only one shot behind, but then took a bungee jump off the scoreboard with two triple-bogeys. Except the rope snapped and there was no coming back in a 77 that was 10 strokes worse than his first-round score. It had been an 11-shot swing to Tiger and he had been utterly humiliated. Hensby was in the best of company here yesterday.

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