Tiger Woods wore black on Friday. That was the appropriate color for this U.S. Open’s second round, which took on a funereal feel as Olympic Club continued to beat down, beat back and beat up the world’s finest golfers.
It was no surprise that the tough conditions left Woods (70) tied for the lead at one under with David Toms (70), a straight-hitting veteran, and Jim Furyk (69), a lunch-pail golfer originally from Western Pennsylvania. Only seven players broke par on Friday. Hunter Hamrick, who plays college golf at Alabama, shot 67. Steve Stricker shot 68, and five others shot 69.
Feels like old times, doesn’t it? Tiger has the lead in a major championship. Your sense of been-there-done-that is justified. Woods has led or been tied for the lead after 36 holes in nine previous major championships. He won eight of them.
In the old days of Tiger’s reign, we’d already be handing him this trophy, but this Open isn’t his to lose just yet. He’s got two former major champions right there with him. Furyk won the 2003 U.S. Open at Olympia Fields, and Toms famously edged Phil Mickelson in the 2001 PGA Championship at Atlanta Athletic Club. And don’t forget 2010 U.S. Open winner Graeme McDowell, who’s a mere two shots back with John Peterson, Michael Thompson and Nicholas Colsaerts. Tiger’s competitors are top shelf.
This could be a pretty good weekend.
“It’s a wonderful place to be, with a chance to win your nation’s Open,” Woods said. “I think I’m in a good spot. I’m looking forward to it.”
Woods was impressive in his Memorial win two weeks ago and his Bay Hill win in March, and he’s been impressive here. He’s played six straight competitive rounds looking like the consummate shotmaker of old. If you don’t think he’s back, you haven’t been paying attention. How well his putter performs is still to be determined, but this new incarnation of Woods looks awfully formidable.
A lot of observers won’t consider him all the way back until he wins a major championship. (His last was the 2008 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines.) Woods knows that, and he knows people have been wondering what’s taken him so long to get his game shaped up with coach Sean Foley.
“It was a tough year last year, battling those injuries,” Woods said. “It’s hard to get repetition and get momentum when I can’t practice. This year, I’ve played well in spurts, and I finally put it together at Bay Hill, lost it there for a little bit, and then put it together at Memorial.
“It’s better than what I had at Bay Hill. I’m able to shape the ball better with better trajectory control than Bay Hill. And that’s one reason I was so excited how I played at Memorial.”
He continued to impress Friday, grabbing the spotlight early. He bounced an 8-iron shot to five feet for a birdie at the third hole, which gave him the solo lead at that point because first-round leader Michael Thompson had already posted a bogey and a double bogey in his first four holes.
Then came the kind of adversity that Opens always bring. Woods missed a four-foot par save after a good bunker shot at the fifth. His approach stuck in thick rough just above the greenside bunker at the sixth, where Woods had to take a stance in the sand and choke way up on his wedge. He carefully popped the ball up in the air, but it ran 20 feet past the pin. He made a second straight bogey.
At the seventh, Woods made the kind of blunder he doesn’t usually make. He drove it into the greenside bunker at the short par 4, a good play, and hit a decent shot to about eight feet. It was a quick putt, however, and his attempt powered off the lip and raced six feet past. He lipped out the par putt, too, for a third straight bogey.
Woods regrouped on the back nine. He earned one of the day’s loudest roars when he rolled in a 30-foot birdie putt at the 10th, raising his putter in the air even before the ball dropped into the cup. He stiffed a 7-iron shot to five feet at the par-3 13th and made birdie to get back to even par for the day and into a share of the lead with Furyk at one under.
Woods actually had a chance to separate himself from the field at the end. He settled for par when he didn’t get up and down from a greenside bunker at the 610-yard par-5 16th. At the par-5 17, his second shot rolled over the back of the green and ran 40 yards down a slope. He made a great chip to give himself a birdie chance but couldn’t convert the putt. At 18, despite having a short iron in his hands, he dumped his second shot into the front bunker and saved par after a nice sand shot.
“My two best swings I made all week, I ended up in terrible spots,” Woods said. “I flagged it at 6 today. It was a beautiful little soft 4-iron from about 230 yards. I took something off it and held it up against the wind. It was right at the flag, then it hops left. If it goes in the bunker, it’s an easy up-and-down. All of a sudden, I’ve got no lie, and I struggled to make bogey.
“Then I hit another beautiful soft 4-iron up in the air on 17. I thought I threw it high enough to land soft, and evidently, I didn’t.”
From Golf .com
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