GULLANE, Scotland, July 19 (UPI) -- Taking advantage of soft conditions, Ernie Els and Colin Montgomerie both approached scoring records Friday at the British Open, but Tiger Woods strengthened his chance for an unprecedented Grand Slam on a rainy day at Muirfield Golf Links.
While Els threatened the nine-hole Open scoring mark and Montgomerie challenged the best round in tournament history, Woods stayed in contention with a 3-under-par 68 that put him at 4-under 138.
"I feel very comfortable," said Woods, golf's incomparable star who lipped out three birdie putts Thursday. "That's what I'm going to take away from the first two days."
Shooting for his third career major title, Els went out in 7-under 29, missing Dennis Durnian's 19-year-old nine-hole scoring record by just a stroke. "The first nine was, obviously, quite amazing, really," said Els, the third-ranked player in the world behind Woods and Phil Mickelson.
Although he had a pair of bogeys on the back nine and had to scramble for par at the 18th, the two-time U.S. Open winner from South Africa shot a 5-under 66 for a 36-hole total of 7-under 135. "I've got an opportunity to achieve one of my goals," said Els, who was second at the British Open in 1996 and 2000.
A native of Scotland, Montgomerie teed off under rainy morning conditions, but that couldn't put a damper on his 64, which came within a stroke of the best round in the 131-year history of the Open. One of the best players in European PGA Tour history, "Monty" did match the lowest score over the first two rounds of the 15 Opens held at Muirfield and jumped into contention for his first major title by reaching 4-under 138.
"I want to keep this momentum going," said Montgomerie, who has won 26 titles in Europe but is 0-for-44 in majors, placing second three times. "I know I can win."
Armstrong wins again, extends lead
PLATEAU DE BEILLE, France, July 19 (UPI) -- Lance Armstrong of the United States again gained inspiration as he passed the memorial of a former teammate.
Armstrong captured his second straight leg of the 89th Tour de France on Friday, winning the mountainous 12th stage from Lannemezan to Plateau de Beille and extending his overall lead.
The three-time defending champion at the world's most famous cycling race, Armstrong captured his 14th career stage win. He attacked on the final ascent to Plateau de Beille and his closest rivals for the yellow jersey--Spain's Joseba Beloki and Igor Gonzalez Galdeano--were unable to stay with theTexan's pace.
Armstrong opened a two-minute, 28-second advantage over Beloki and is 3:19 ahead of Gonzalez Galdeano.
Thursday marked the seventh anniversary of the death of Casartelli. The Italian rider perished after a fall on the descent of the Col de Portet d'Aspet during the 1995 Tour. He was riding on Armstrong's Motorola team.
Carlos Moya reaches semifinals
UMAG, Croatia, July 19 (UPI) -- Defending champion Carlos Moya, the second seed from Spain, rallied past compatriot Fernando Vicente, the fifth seed, 3-6, 6-1, 6-0, on Friday to advance to the semifinals of the $381,000 Croatia Open.
The 1998 French Open champion, Moya won his eighth straight match, including a title in Bastad last week. Moya has lost just two sets during that span. The 25-year-old Moya is trying to capture his third Croatia Open title, having won his first trophy in 1996.
In an all-Croatian quarterfinal matchup, wild card Zeljko Krajan upset fourth seed Ivan Ljubicic, 7-6 (7-2), 7-5. Krajan, 23, is looking to became the first home-grown champion in 12 years. Goran Prpic defeated Goran Ivansevic in the all-Croatian final in 1990.
Unser to seek alcohol abuse help
INDIANAPOLIS, July 19 (UPI) -- Al Unser, two-time winner of the Indianapolis 500, says he plans to enter a treatment center for alcohol abuse.
Unser made that announcenment on the same day he learned he will not face criminal charges for allegedly assaulting his girlfriend.
"I have a problem with alcohol abuse," the 40-year-old auto racing star said. "Nearly every poor choice I've made in my life occurred under the influence of alcohol. I don't understand why I have the problem, but I know I have to straighten it out. And I now am ready to do so."
The name and location of the facility was not disclosed. Unser said he hopes to return to the Indy Racing League sometime next month.
NFL confirms Carter suspension
METAIRIE, La., July 19 (UPI) -- The NFL confirmed Friday that four-time Pro Bowl cornerback Dale Carter of the New Orleans Saints has been suspended indefinitely for violating the league's substance abuse policy.
NFL rules prohibit league or team officials from commenting on the specifics of such suspensions, but ESPN reported that the violation was for alcohol and not for a banned substance.
Carter previously was suspended for the entire 2000 season for violating the policy.
Under terms of the program, players who violate the substance abuse policy following a one-year ban are suspended indefinitely.
Carter's suspension began immediately and he is prohibited from participating in any team activities. Despite Carter's status as a multiple offender of the substance abuse policy, the Saints signed him to a seven-year, $26.9 million contract in March
Dolphins waive one DE, acquire another
MIAMI, July 19 (UPI) -- The Miami Dolphins on Friday waived defensive tackle/end Daryl Gardener after acquiring defensive end Jay Williams from the Carolina Panthers for a fourth-round pick in 2003 and reserve defensive end Al Wallace.
Gardener, 29, missed 15 games over the last two seasons after undergoing two back surgeries and the Dolphins planned to move him to right end after signing free agent defensive tackle Larry Chester. But after restructuring his contract to give the Dolphins salary cap relief, Gardener angered team officials when he missed some offseason workouts.
The Dolphins signed free agent defensive end Rob Burnett, a starter with the Cleveland-Baltimore franchise since 1990, last month as insurance for Gardener's back problems. When they made another move for a defensive end with the acquisition of Williams, it became clear that Gardener would be released.
The 6-6, 317-pound Gardener was the team's best run-stuffing defensive tackle and a starter since his rookie year in 1996.
With Gardener in the middle last season, the Dolphins allowed an average of 99 yards on 25 carries in the first eight games, going 6-2. Without Gardener, the Dolphins yielded an average of 33 carries for 134 yards in the last nine games. That included four games when they allowed more than 150 yards and 226 yards in a playoff loss to Baltimore.
A veteran of seven NFL seasons, the 31-year-old Williams signed with the Panthers as an unrestricted free agent in 2000 after playing for the St. Louis Rams' Super Bowl XXXIV championship team. In his first season with Carolina, Williams led the team with a career-high six sacks. Last season, he recorded a career-high 54 tackles.
NASCAR driver dies in motorcycle crash
WHITEHOUSE, Tenn., July 19 (UPI) -- NASCAR Busch Series driver Andy Kirby was killed in a motorcycle accident Thursday night. He was 40.
According to the Tennessee Highway Patrol, Kirby was traveling westbound on Union Road when he lost control of his 1985 Harley Davidson motorcycle attempting to steer through a curve.
"According to our investigation, the driver slid 174 feet on the pavement before he and the motorcycle slid off the road," Tennessee Highway Patrol spokesperson Beth Tucker-Womack told NASCAR.com. "He then slid another 47 feet before striking a tree. At that time, he was ejected from the bike. There was no sign of drugs or alcohol involved."
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