Ernie Els kept alive his bid for back-to-back British Open titles yesterday, firing a three-under-par 68 in the second round as most of the early starters battled in tugging winds.
The world No. 2, one of several big names to struggle at a difficult Royal St George's on Thursday, mixed four birdies with a bogey to finish at four-over-par 146, eight behind early leader SK Ho of South Korea.
While world No. 1 Tiger Woods prepared for a late tee-off, surprise first-round leader Hennie Otto of South Africa slipped back to two under, bogeying the first and third before collecting his first birdie of the day at the fifth.
Ho, one of only five players to break par in the opening round, took advantage of Otto's faltering start, moving two clear of the field after five holes at four under par.
The 29-year-old from Seoul collected a birdie two at the 210-yard third before holing a 30-foot eagle putt at the fourth.
Earlier, Els made a fast start, holing a 4m birdie putt at the par-four second and then two-putting for birdie at the 497-yard fourth.
At this point, the winds had strengthened at Sandwich after a relatively calm dawn.
The big-hitting South African, who had stumbled to an opening seven-over 78, dropped his first shot of the day when he misjudged his tee shot at the par-three 11th.
But he got back on track with further birdies at the 459-yard 13th, where he holed out from 2m, and at the par-four 17th.
With the fairways and greens firming up and quickening in pace, a clutch of players prospered over the first nine holes before faltering after the turn.
American Scott McCarron bounced back from a bogey-bogey start with birdies at the third, fourth, fifth, seventh and ninth to get to three under.
However he then bogeyed 12, 14 and 16 before running up a triple-bogey seven at the par-four 17th, where he shanked his third shot well right of the green, on his way to a three-over 74.
Sweden's Fredrik Jacobson, one of just five players to break par in the first round with a one-under 70, finally ended his unique bogey-free run this week at the 12th hole, where he found a bunker off the tee.
The 28-year-old Swede then dropped shots at the next five holes on his way to a 76 and a 36-hole total of four-over 146.
Woods, the 2000 champion, was scheduled to tee off in the second round at 1:05pm GMT, when the winds were expected to die down.
Britain's Ian Woosnam, the 1991 US Masters champion, tacked a four-over-par 75 on to his opening 73.