A New Reign for Spain; Garcia and Jimenez Are Making Some New History in Spanish Golf at the British Open

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Byline: SCOTT MICHAUX

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland -- A British Open that got off to a solemn start for Spain could be heading toward a glorious finish.

The greatest Spanish golfer in history (Seve Ballesteros) retired on Monday, then his closest heir (Jose Maria Olazabal) withdrew because of a knee injury, leaving Spain without any major winners in the Open for only the second time since 1978.

Halfway through the tournament, however, Sergio Garcia and Miguel Angel Jimenez have given their countrymen some new golf heroes.

Garcia held fast to his first-round lead and Jimenez improved to third as the British Open heads into what is forecasted to be a sloppy weekend of weather. Entering the major fraternity on the week Ballesteros bowed out would be quite a story.

"It would be great, yeah," Garcia said. "Unfortunately there's only two of us. The odds are not huge. It would be amazing. It would be something out of, how do you call it, a fairy tale or something like that."

Garcia followed his opening 65 with a solid, even-par 71 on Friday to remain at 6-under par, maintaining the two-shot lead he carried into the round. K.J. Choi of South Korea who shot 69 on Friday to move into second place at 4-under 138.

"I'd rather be leading than being eight shots back, that's for sure, because you don't feel like you have to push your game to the limit all the time," Garcia said. "So I'm pretty happy the way I'm standing right now."

Jimenez shot a 70 to get to 3-under and tied for third at 139 with former Masters champion Mike Weir (68) of Canada.

Former U.S. Open champion Jim Furyk (70) of Ponte Vedra and Milton's Boo Weekley (72) are the lowest Americans and Floridians in the field and tied for fifth at 2-under.

Two-time defending champion Tiger Woods hit his first tee shot out of bounds en route to a 74 that left him tied for 24th and seven shots back of Garcia.

"I could have easily shot myself right out of the tournament today but I kept myself right in there," Woods said. …