Tiger Woods, as only he can, was again dominating at the 102nd US Open as conditions became even more difficult here at Bethpage Black. Steady rain made the course play longer and the rough wetter but Woods extended his lead. Birdieing his last hole for the second day running, the Masters champion moved to five under par with a 68, the only score of the morning that was under par.
Woods held an eight-stroke lead over the rest of the players to have made the safety of the clubhouse, while the others battled the elements in the afternoon. Three players were at level par, Sergio Garcia, Padraig Harrington and Korea's K J Choi, with Phil Mickelson two further back.
Woods has won the last 12 tournaments he has led at the halfway mark. The way he fought to save par during this first round of 67 and yesterday was reminiscent of his record-breaking 15-stroke victory in the 2000 US Open at Pebble Beach, then the only major to date he has won wire-to-wire. After birdieing three of the first four holes, Woods managed to confine his dropped shots to the testing stretch around the turn.
"It is always pleasing to make those key par-putts," Woods said. "Somehow you have to make them. The course is playing brutal. It was a tough day, wet, long and slow. You just have to plod along and try to stay out of trouble. I've still got 36 holes to play and will be doing my best to win this championship."
Around £2m was spent on bringing the Black course, the longest in US Open history, up to a standard to become the first genuine municipal course to host America's national championship. Those who regularly spend the night in the car park and pay their £20 to play the most demanding of the five courses at this complex enjoyed watching the best players in the world struggle.
In the first round only six players broke par, the lowest number for a first day at the US Open since Shinnecock Hills in 1986. Over the two rounds, the threeball of Retief Goosen, the defending champion, David Duval, the Open champion, and David Toms, the USPGA champion, were a combined 33 over par. Goosen finished at 14 over and Duval at 11 over, although he was on course for only the second under par round of the day before he had a double and a triple bogey in his last three holes.
The first hole doglegs sharply to the right and Woods found the right rough. Having to hit his second shot from 150 yards under the branches of a tree, he not only ran the ball on to the green but needed only a three-foot putt for his birdie.
Woods also birdied the next when he hit his approach to two feet and then added another at the par-five four to go four clear of the field. However, just when it appeared that he was the only player not to notice the difficulty of the conditions, Woods found three greenside bunkers in a row from the eighth.
He dropped shots at the eighth and 10th and had to hole from 15 feet at the ninth to save his par. Woods missed a number of fairways but a combination of power and the odd fortunate lie in the rough saved him.
Woods' score was four better than the best of the other morning players, with 72s from Luke Donald, Scott McCarron and Steve Flesch. Donald, the young Englishman who is playing on the US Tour, came home in 34 with a birdie at the last to give himself an outside chance of making the cut at eight over par. Nick Faldo, who started at level par, had a 76 to be six over.
US Open scores
US unless stated, par 70
Early second-round scores
135 T Woods 67 68
143 B Mayfair 69 74
145 C Howell 71 74
144 S McCarron 72 72; S Flesch 72 72
146 J Haas 73 73; J Sluman 73 73; N Faldo (GB) 70 76; A Cabrera (Arg) 73 73; J V de Velde (Fr) 71 75; F Langham 70 76; H Tanaka (Japan) 73 73; B Lardon 73 73
147 N Price (Zim) 72 75; R Karlsson (Swe) 71 76; P Lonard (Aus) 73 74; H Frazar 74 73
148 T Levet (Fr) 71 77; B Langer (Ger) 72 76; G Norman (Aus) 75 73; J Parnevik (Swe) 72 76; L Donald (GB) 76 72; C DiMarco 74 74; D Clarke (GB) 74 74; D Toms 74 74
149 T Herron 75 74
150 K Perry 74 76; S McRoy 75 75; S McRoy 75 75; T Bjorn (Den) 71 79; J Daly 74 76; V Singh (Fiji) 75 75; D Hammond 73 77; J Carter 77 73; S Appleby (Aus) 77 73; J M Singh (India) 75 75
151 P O'Malley (Aus) 75 76; B Crane 75 76; T Pernice 75 76; B Gay 75 76; D Duval 78 73; S Haskins 74 77
152 P-U Johansson (Swe) 78 74; *T Kiyota (Japan) 73 79; C Perks (NZ) 76 76
153 S Dunlap 75 78; S Verplank 75 78; M Brooks 75 78; G Chalmers (Aus) 72 81; K Duke 76 77
154 J D Blake 74 80; P McGinley (Irl) 75 79; J McGovern 75 79; A Sanders 77 77; R Goosen (SA) 79 75; K Gibson 77 77; S Jones 74 80; B Portie 77 77; *R Moore 76 78
155 W Austin 79 76; J Kelly 76 79; J Sindelar 76 79
156 M Allen 77 79
157 P Perez 76 81; A Scott (Aus) 77 80; P Azinger 75 82; C Parry (Aus) 79 78; K Yokoo (Japan) 78 79; T Dodds (Nam) 77 80
158 George McNeill 79 79
159 C Raulerson 78 81
160 T Soerries 84 76
165 H Slocum 83 82; A Spiers (Can) 80 85; S Parel 82 83
166 *D Tolan 78 88
167 W Grady (Aus) 84 83
174 F Casas (Phil) 82 92
Withdrew: T Izawa (Japan)
Leading first-round scores
68 S Garcia (Sp)
69 J Maggert, K J Choi (S Kor), D Hart
70 P Harrington (Irl), S Cink, P Mickelson, S Lowery
71 T Lehman, D Love III, S Hoch, J M Olazabal (Sp), T Gillis, T Rose, C Bowden
72 P Stankowski, R Mediate, S Stricker, N Fasth (Swe), W Andrade, L Mattiace, T Byrum, B Tway, M Campbell (NZ)
73 P Lawrie (GB), J Furyk, K Triplett, I Leggatt (Can), E Els (SA), J Leonard, *K Warwick
74 K Sutherland, S Katayama (Japan), R Allenby (Aus), C Stadler, P Tataurangi (NZ), C Pavin, F Lickliter, J Cook, C Stadler, M Calcavecchia, L Glover
* denotes amateur
Join our new commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies