Tiger sets up back nine charge with magical approach

After one of the most thrilling back nines of his career - and therefore one of the most thrilling in the history of golf - Tiger Woods strode into a tie for second here at the US Open. So much for a sore knee scuppering his chances of a 14th major. With his putter this hot he could prevail on one leg.



It would certainly take the most stubborn of idiots to carry on peddling the theory that he simply cannot win after a nine-week absence following surgery. He gave 30 very good reasons to discount that bunkum. It was the second-best inward score ever in the US Open as he produced six threes and three fours with a clinical display of putting.

The 68 took him to two-under and within one of the second-round lead held by the Australian Stuart Appleby. Meanwhile, there is healthy British interest with Lee Westwood on one-under and Luke Donald on level. However, on a major Friday louder than any before, Woods was inevitably the man commanding all the noise.

“I just made a few putts coming in,” was his nonchalant reaction. “My aim was to get to level par. I did a bit better than that.”

Indeed he did, as Phil Mickelson would testify. Having beaten his supposedly crocked playing partner by a stroke on Thursday, the world No 2 watched in horror as the brilliance of No 1 effected a seven-shot turnaround. Mickelson’s strange game-plan to use only three-woods off the tee – and then to proceed to find the deep stuff with miserable monotony – was one of the principal factors in his 75. Although being in the proximity of his inspired nemesis was doubtlessly another.

Mickelson could not have expected the charge on a front nine in which Woods was a pale shadow of himself. In fact, nobody, not even Woods himself, could have expected it.

Staring on the 10th, Woods took two bogeys on the opening three holes and despite an eagle on the 13th, further blemishes on the 16th and 17th highlighted his indifferent form. As he limped from fairway to green it seemed the injury was holding him back, but then it all changed on the first (his 10th). He was fortunate to find a gap to play through after slicing his drive but with his spikes on a cart-path it was a worrying moment.

He ignored the pain that shot up his leg and hit a sumptuous eight-iron to 20 feet. He holed that birdie attempt, just as he was to from similar distances on the second fourth and fifth. Incredibly he had five threes in succession on his card, an almost unprecedented run of figures at the US Open. Another birdie on his last hole, the par-five ninth, finished off a spectacular afternoon’s work. Saying that, the limp off that final green appeared more pronounced than ever and so still the tongues wagged.

“Yeah it’s a little sore,” admitted Woods for the second day in succession. “But I’ll be good to go tomorrow.” His rivals would expect nothing else. Appleby is no mug, though, and neither for that matter is Robert Karlsson.

On two-under the Swede is the leading Euro in the mission to win the continent its first US Open in 38 years. Yet he is not alone. Westwood’s solid par round kept him very much in the hunt while Miguel Angel Jimenez’s brilliant 66 hauled him into contention. The Spaniard fired the round of the tournament so far and so proved that his victory in the BMW PGA Championship four weeks ago was anything but fluky.

On one-under, the evergreen 44-year-old is on the same mark as Westwood and one clear of Donald. Ernie Els and Geoff Ogilvy are also on level par and that pair of former champions could well be Woods’ biggest threats.

Alas, there will be no Ian Poulter or Colin Montgomerie joining the Tiger hunt. The former pulled out with an injured wrist with three holes remaining, although his pride had also taken a bashing due to two double bogeys and a treble bogey. At 14-over he was on his way home whatever and left himself that bit longer to get to the airport. A US Open official said no reason for the withdrawal was given, while his playing partner Donald was just as mystified. "I've no idea why [Poulter pulled out]," he said. "He just said he was off and that was it. He said 'goodbye and good luck' and walked in."

Montgomerie was not quite as gracious, hurriedly leaving the scene of his latest devastation following a 77 to go next to a 79. The 44-year-old (soon to be 45) is in the worst run of his career and the feeling that he is on an inexorable decline will only intensify after this setback. Surely now it is time for Donald and the rest of the British golden generation to take up the Scot's mantle.

It will not be carried by Justin Rose; not this weekend anyway. The world No 6 was supposedly Europe's best chance of filling the void that stretches back to Tony Jacklin's win at Hazeltine in 1970, but he returned to the wretched form that blighted his start to this season with a nine-over total that sent him back to Florida. He was overshadowed by the achievement of two less heralded countrymen in Oliver Wilson and Robert Dinwiddie, on one-over and two-over respectively.

With Padraig Harrington back in contention on three-over thanks to a 67, the only bogeyless round of the first two days, and Sergio Garcia also far from out of it on four-over, it was a stirring day all round for Europe. Tiger took all the plaudits, however. The magician on one leg.





Second round scores in the 108th US Open at Torrey Pines (par-71, US unless stated, * denotes amateur)



139 Stuart Appleby (Australia) 69 70



140 Rocco Mediate 69 71



Robert Karlsson (Sweden) 70 70



Tiger Woods 72 68



141 D.J. Trahan 72 69



Davis Love III 72 69



Lee Westwood (Britain) 70 71



Miguel Angel Jimenez (Spain) 75 66



142 Luke Donald (Britain) 71 71



Robert Allenby (Australia) 70 72



Geoff Ogilvy (Australia) 69 73



Ernie Els (South Africa) 70 72



Carl Pettersson (Sweden) 71 71



143 John Rollins 75 68



Oliver Wilson (Britain) 72 71



144 Robert Dinwiddie (Britain) 73 71



Scott Verplank 72 72



Camilo Villegas (Colombia) 73 71



Woody Austin 72 72



Rod Pampling (Australia) 74 70



Andres Romero (Argentina) 71 73



145 Kevin Streelman 68 77



Bart Bryant 75 70



Stewart Cink 72 73



Retief Goosen (South Africa) 76 69



Padraig Harrington (Ireland) 78 67



Martin Kaymer (Germany) 75 70



Rory Sabbatini (South Africa) 73 72



John Merrick 73 72



Jim Furyk 74 71



Tim Clark (South Africa) 73 72



D.A. Points 74 71



Patrick Sheehan 71 74



Brett Quigley 73 72



146 Sergio Garcia (Spain) 76 70



Hunter Mahan 72 74



Derek Fathauer * 73 73



Dustin Johnson 74 72



Matt Kuchar 73 73



Adam Scott (Australia) 73 73



Phil Mickelson 71 75



147 Jonathan Mills (Canada) 72 75



Mike Weir (Canada) 73 74



Aaron Baddeley (Australia) 74 73



Justin Leonard 75 72



Michael Thompson * 74 73



Joe Ogilvie 71 76



Ben Crane 75 72



148 Trevor Immelman (South Africa) 75 73



Stephen Ames (Canada) 74 74



David Toms 76 72



John Mallinger 73 75



Ross McGowan (Britain) 76 72



Ian Leggatt (Canada) 72 76



Andrew Svoboda 77 71



Brandt Jobe 73 75



Justin Hicks 68 80



Pat Perez 75 73



Nick Watney 73 75



Soren Hansen (Denmark) 78 80



Daniel Chopra (Sweden) 73 75



Eric Axley 69 79



Rich Beem 74 74



Todd Hamilton 74 74



149 Jarrod Lyle (Australia) 75 74



Chad Campbell 77 72



Vijay Singh (Fiji) 71 78



Paul Casey (Britain) 79 70



Jeff Quinney 79 70



Alastair Forsyth (Britain) 76 73



Andrew Dresser 76 73



Brandt Snedeker 76 73



Steve Stricker 73 76



Heath Slocum 75 74



Rickie Fowler * 70 79



Chris Kirk 75 74



Jesper Parnevik (Sweden) 77 72



Boo Weekley 73 76



Anthony Kim 74 75



Ryuji Imada (Japan) 74 75



150 Jon Turcott 77 73



Scott Sterling 80 70



Zach Johnson 76 74



Toru Taniguchi (Japan) 74 76



J.B. Holmes 75 75



Robert Garrigus 77 73v



Kyle Stanley * 72 78



Casey Wittenberg 72 78



Hunter Haas 80 70



Thomas Levet (France) 74 76



Mathew Goggin (Australia) 77 73



151 Rob Rashell 81 70



Richard Sterne (South Africa) 76 75



Ben Curtis 75 76



Justin Rose (Britain) 79 72



Mark O'Meara 75 76



John Ellis 77 74



Ross Fisher (Britain) 73 78



Steve Marino 73 78



Peter Tomasulo 76 75



David Hearn (Canada) 76 75



Scott Piercy 78 73



K.J. Choi (South Korea) 74 77



152 Nick Taylor * (Canada) 77 75



Jonathan Byrd 75 77



Michael Letzig 77 75



153 Michael Allen 78 75



Charles Howell III 75 78



Kevin Tway * 75 78



Jason Bohn 76 77



Fredrik Jacobson (Swdeen) 74 79



Lee Janzen 75 78



Shingo Katayama (Japan) 77 76



154 D.J. Brigman 79 75



Henrik Stenson (Sweden) 78 76



Bubba Watson 77 77



155 Charlie Beljan 76 79



Angel Cabrera (Argentina) 79 76



Nick Dougherty (Britain) 78 77



Jason Gore 79 76



Dean Wilson 76 79



156 Colin Montgomerie (Britain) 79 77



Kevin Silva 80 76



Robert Gaus 80 76



Craig Barlow 80 76



Brad Bryant 77 79



Craig Parry (Australia) 75 81



Johan Edfors (Sweden) 79 77



157 Jerry Kelly 75 82



Jordan Cox * 80 77



159 Phillip Archer (Britain) 78 81



Jay Choi (South Korea) 79 80



Jeff Wilson * 78 81



Steve Flesch 78 81



161 Chris Stroud 84 77



Philippe Gasnier (Brazil) 86 75



Michael Campbell (New Zealand) 78 83



162 Artemio Murakami (Philippines) 79 83



Bobby Collins 84 78



Garrett Chaussard 80 82



Brian Kortan 78 84



163 Jimmy Henderson 81 82



Fernando Figueroa (El Salvador) 78 85



165 Gary Wolstenholme (Britain) 83 82



167 Mike Gilmore 86 81

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