Woods starts to claw his way back

US OPEN: American wonder boy rediscovers his touch but an electrical storm interrupts his advance on leader Montgomerie
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Tiger Woods set out to prove that anything Colin Montgomerie can do, the boy wonder of golf might also be capable of achieving in the second round of the US Open. When an electrical storm interrupted play, Woods had fought his way back to level par, still five behind Monty, by picking up four shots on the day.

Woods, who started the final round of the Masters with a nine-stroke lead, had given himself a deficit of a similar amount with a 74 in the first round. The so-called "Mozart of the Greens" was more reminiscent of Beethoven on a bad hearing day as he struggled to hit the required number of fairways and greens, most spectacularly at the par-three 18th. His seven-iron rebounded off the bank in front of the green into the pond, making the sort of splash he had not intended.

Having gone to the turn in four-under, a mark also reached by Scott Dunlap and the 1994 champion, Ernie Els, Woods was on course to match Montgomerie's opening 65 until he bogeyed the 16th. The suspension in play came with Woods on the 17th tee and Montgomerie eight minutes away from teeing off at the first. The Scot still held a one-shot lead over Hal Sutton, who was also due off later in the day, and Tom Lehman, one of Woods' playing partners, who had picked up one stroke on the day.

Whatever consultations Woods had with his coach, Butch Harmon, on Thursday evening, the remedy seemed to work until, appropriately enough for the date, the 13th. There, Woods found rough and sand for his first bogey, but responded with birdies at the next two. His second at the 15th was pulled into the crowd, but after a free drop, a fine chip set up his four, only for him to fail to get up and down for a par at the next.

Some early morning rain freshened what was otherwise another muggy day and helped make the greens obligingly receptive. Dunlap, in his second year on tour made six birdies in his first 13 holes, only to bogey two of the last three for a 66 which took him to one over. "Any moisture makes the course more playable," Dunlap said.

Any suggestion that Woods was about to miss his first cut in nine months as a professional were dismissed with his start. He birdied the first from six feet, the third from four feet, and the fifth and the seventh from three feet. His tee shot at the par-three pitched at the back of the green and slowly dribbled its way back towards the hole to ever increasing roars of approval.

Like everyone else in the field, Woods has no chance of making the 607- yard ninth in two. A ravine in front of the green means the players lay up in wedge range, and Woods was a fraction out with his approach, which spun off the front of the green. Chipping with his three-wood, Woods saved his par for an outward 31.

A 29 would have been within his range by holing his wedge shot, as demonstrated by Jose Maria Olazabal. Having been in trouble off the tee, Ollie was actually playing his fourth and the birdie was his first deviation from par of the day. Paul Azinger doffed his cap and bowed in supplication, a gesture the Spaniard returned with equal extravagance. The shot pitched four feet behind the hole and spun back in. In the following group, Nick Faldo pitched his third in the same spot, did not get the same backspin and missed his birdie putt.

It was typical of Faldo's last two days and while Olazabal was one over for the tournament through 15 holes, Faldo was battling to avoid missing the cut for the second successive major. A birdie at the ninth would have meant two in a row and got him back to level for the day, but a bogey at the short 12th left him four over and hoping Montgomerie would not go too far ahead. Faldo might need the 10-shot rule to stay in.

The walk from the ninth green to the 10th tee is a long one, and passes the clubhouse, a temptation that John Daly found too great to resist. Having gone to the turn in 38, he was 10 over for his third tournament back after undergoing eight weeks of therapy for alcohol addiction at the Betty Ford Centre. He immediately left the course.

Daly, who was covered in sweat, gave no explanation for his withdrawal to the officials, which would not have been accepted had the event been run by the US PGA Tour rather than the USGA. The first his caddie and playing partners, Payne Stewart and Ernie Els, knew of his retirement came when Daly did not appear at the 10th.

US OPEN (Bethesda, Md): Second-round scores (US unless stated, * denotes amateur): 141 K Gibson 72 69; S Dunlap 75 66. 144 C Parry (Aus) 70 74. 145 P Goydos 73 72. 148 R Black 76 72; Lee Rinker 73 75. 150 G Nicklaus 73 77. 151 M Wiebe 71 80. 153 B Gilder 80 73; F Lickliter 71 82; P Mitchell (GB) 75 78. 159 B Tennyson 79 80. Retired: J Daly.