Woods fails to shine after escaping storm

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The Independent Online

Tiger Woods, who set out on a quest to make the 101st US Open his fifth consecutive major title, yesterday became just another golfer trying to make the cut at Southern Hills. Woods, 65 under par for his last four triumphant major appearances, could not repair the damage of an opening 74, his worst score for more than a year, adding a 71 to be five over par.

Not the least amazing statistic of the 25-year-old's career was that he had only once failed to qualify for the last two rounds of a tournament, at the 1997 Canadian Open, in nearly five years as a professional. This was hardly the occasion to add another missed cut but it became a possibility as the world No 1 struggled in all departments of the game.

Woods was relying on the "10-shot rule" to make the weekend. As he finished his round, he was the required 10 behind the leader, Retief Goosen. The Surrey-based South African was five under with a hole to play after holding the first round lead with a 66. Mark Brooks, the 1996 USPGA champion, and JL Lewis were at four under, while David Duval, the runner-up to Woods at the Masters, was in the clubhouse at one under after rounds of 70 and 69.

Hoping he qualified for the last two rounds, Woods still considered himself a contender for the title, despite not playing up to his usual standards. "I haven't hit the ball as well as I'd like but I've saved myself with my putting," Woods said. "I have pulled some shots, fatted some shots, hit some long and some short. I've got the whole gamut covered. On a course set-up as difficult as this is, you have to keep plodding along and I've managed to keep myself in the ball game."

Woods, one of 89 players to return to the course to complete their first rounds in far kinder conditions than when a thunderstorm interrupted play on Thursday, started the day facing a six-foot putt for a par at the 10th and duly made it to remain at three over par. The damage on the front nine the previous day had been caused by a bogey at the third and a double bogey at the ninth.

A master of peaking on the big occasion, at least in completing his historic quartet of successive majors, for once Woods was not sharp. He overshot the green at the 12th and failed to get up and down before hitting his second at the par-five 13th into the pond in front of the green. He holed from eight feet to save par and then made another from the same distance for his only birdie of the round at the 15th.

At the 18th his approach found a bunker in front of the green and when he only came out 12 feet short of the hole, he slammed his sand wedge into his bag and then missed the putt.

It was Tiger's highest score in any event, and his first over-par round in a major, since his opening 75 in the Masters last year, 14 months ago, the last major won by anyone other than Woods. It was also only his third over-par score in 49 rounds this year, and the first since his so-called "slump" of February.

Woods continued to struggle at the start of his second round, missing the fairway at the first four holes. He got up and down from off the green at the first two holes but only just emerged from a greenside bunker at the fourth and needed a chip and a putt for a bogey. He then three-putted at the next, missing from less than three feet for par to fall to six over par.

He managed to get up and down from a bunker at the 10th and from over the back of the green at the 11th before he holed from 25 feet at the next for a three. Woods immediately added another birdie at the par-five 13th but dropped a shot at the 16th and, after a fine approach at the last, missed a chance of a closing birdie.

Having birdied the seventh prior to the interruption on Thursday, Goosen began yesterday by holing a short putt for birdie on the eighth and adding another at the ninth to be out in 30. "I haven't played well in America at all but you learn every time you come over," Goosen said. "I am just trying to make a par at every hole and if I make a birdie, that's great."

Colin Montgomerie played his last eight holes in level par in the morning for a 71 and then added a 70 to be one over par. "For once I want it to be hot in America," Monty said, referring to the back injury that forced him to withdraw from last week's English Open but has so far not troubled him here. "I am playing 100 per cent better than the last few weeks. If I make a few putts over the weekend, I can still win."

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