Plodding Tiger ties for Open lead
SAN FRANCISCO -- After a long, rough day on a long, rough course, golfers were asked to describe the type of player who usually does well in the U.S. Open. They mentioned that the tournament draws the best from plodders, grinders and dreamers, with 17-year-old Beau Hossler fitting the latter group.
Woods has done pretty well so far in this Open, too, having put himself in position to win his first major in four years. Halfway through, he is tied for first with fellow veterans and major winners Jim Furyk and David Toms at 1 under par, in an event that has put a premium on par.
His shots were not as consistently solid as they had been on Thursday, but he was able to adjust and recover here and there, which also is part of the Open. Woods took the outright lead early, gave it up with three consecutive bogeys on the front nine, and bounced back from that to finish with a round of par 70.
It set up an interesting weekend with a familiar pattern. "Usually, you don't see too many flukes win the U.S. Open," Furyk said after he shot 69. "You'll see some guys that maybe are in contention through Friday, but you usually don't see a guy win the U.S. Open who isn't a world class player."
Woods' round on Friday showed his worth as a contender, but at the same time, it did not make him look like a cinch to win, as he had appeared on the way to his Open wins at Pebble Beach in 2000 and Bethpage in 2002. He did drain a 30-footer for birdie 3 on No. 10, and converted a four-footer for birdie 2 on No. 13.
But he had no birdies after that, not even on the inviting par 5 17th. There, his second shot ran through the green and rolled 40 yards downhill. He made a neat shot back up the hill and gave himself a 10-footer for the outright lead, then missed it.
"Well, that was not easy," he said of his round. "In this tournament, you're just plodding along. It's a different tournament. You have to stay patient, stay present and just make a lot of pars."
Just about anything can happen early in an Open. Hossler, whose caddie (and godfather) carried the young man's Rancho Santa Margarita (Calif.) High School bag, made a five-foot putt on No. 1 (his tenth hole) and took the lead. "I was pretty excited about it, but then again I had another 40 holes, at least, to be playing," he said.
He was asked what his reaction would have been if someone had told him a high school junior would be leading the Open. "I would probably tell them they're nuts," he said. He smiled, revealing his braces, as his mother told reporters that he still is responsible for cleaning his room.
Hossler finished at 3 over, which was much better than Woods' partners, Phil Mickelson (7 over) and Bubba Watson (9 over). The latter missed the cut because the USGA this year eliminated the rule that allows anyone within 10 strokes of the lead to play the weekend. Defending champion Rory McIlroy (10 over) also went home.
Woods gave himself a chance to go home with a trophy, despite the fact he has two long, tough, plodding days ahead.
"I like it. I know it takes a bit out of us, but so be it," he said. "It's a wonderful place to be, with a chance to win your nation's Open."