Woods ready to plod way to overdue Open title

By Martyn Herman

GULLANE, Scotland (Reuters) - Tiger Woods won many of his 14 majors with rip-roaring golf that left his rivals behind in a cloud of dust but the American intends to plod his way to the British Open title on Sunday.

With Muirfield's bone-hard fairways, clinging rough and lightning-fast greens proving a deterrent to expansive displays, world number one Woods employed a safety-first approach to record a level-par 71 in his second round on Friday.

The 37-year-old was often out-hit by playing partner Graeme McDowell and was ranked 140th of the 153 players left in the championship in terms of length off the tee.

"About eight or 10 times I believe," Woods said when asked by reporters how many times he had used his driver, before adding: "On the range...got ya!"

He may as well have left the longest club in the bag at home because his iron off the tees have been gun-barrel straight, so much so that he is ranked 10th in locating fairways on a Muirfield course that offers few gifts and punishes inaccuracy without mercy.

"I'm just going to continue plodding along," said Woods, clearly reveling in the heat of the battle.

"Just continue just being patient, putting the ball in the right spots and trying. Not going to get a lot of opportunities out there but when I have I've been able to capitalize and hopefully I can continue doing that."

After two birdies and two bogeys on the outward nine, Woods dropped another shot at the 11th before going into lock-down mode and reeling off six pars.

He then sank a smooth birdie putt on the 18th to finish on two-under 140, within touching distance of the top of the leaderboard.

"I grinded all day," he said. "I hadn't made a birdie since the fifth so it was nice to make one on the last and improve the card."

Woods birdied the par-four third after a laser-guided approach left him an eight-foot putt and while he missed a short par effort at the following hole, he gained another shot at the par-five fifth with a tap-in birdie.

With the greens quickening up, nothing was guaranteed on the glassy turf and Woods missed another short putt for par at the eighth to reach the turn as he started the day.

His birdie at 18, however, set him up perfectly for a weekend charge - or rather, plod.

"With this golf course, it's what this golf course does," said Woods whose last Open win at rock-hard Hoylake in 2006 was also a lesson in control and precision rather than power.

"It's so quick. It depends on where you land, on what side of the slope. Is it on the back side or the front side and that determines a lot how far the ball is going to go.

"(The weekend is) going to be a big test."

(Editing by Ed Osmond)