June 13, 2008

Another Three-Putt Costs Tiger Woods an Early Stroke at U.S. Open


SAN DIEGO - Tiger Woods opened the second round Friday the same way he closed the first the day before - with an ugly three-putt that sent him in wrong direction on the U.S. Open scoreboard.

Not many people were getting too far ahead of Woods, though.

Even with a bogey on No. 10 that pushed him to 2-over for the tournament, Woods was well within striking range, especially for him - six shots off the lead held by Rocco Mediate, who was at 4-under par after opening the day with two birdies on his first four holes.

First-day co-leader Justin Hicks made two bogeys over his first five holes to drop to 1-over. The other co-leader, Kevin Streelman, shot 6-over 77 in the morning to head into the weekend at 3-over.

Woods took to the course for the second straight day with Phil Mickelson and Adam Scott, a power threesome comprised of the world's top three players. Scott hit his approach to four feet on No. 10 for a birdie to go to 1-over and Mickelson made par to stay at even.

Jon Mills of Oshawa, Ont., and Mike Weir of Bright's Grove, Ont., were the top Canadians with two-round totals of 147. Mills shot a 4-over 75, while Weir fired a 74.

Calgary's Stephen Ames was one stroke further behind at 148 after his second straight 74. Ian Leggatt of Cambridge, Ont., is also at 148 following a 76.

The remaining Canadians were in danger of missing the projected cut of 6 over. David Hearn of Brantford, Ont., was 3 over after seven holes and 8 over for the tournament. Nick Taylor of Abbotsford, B.C., shot 75 to leave him 10-over par overall. Montreal's Yohann Benson opened with a 83 and had a late tee-off time.

Torrey Pines was far from impossible, but not too forgiving either in the hours before Woods headed back out to the course.

D.J. Trahan and Davis Love III shot 2-under 69 and Sergio Garcia 1-under 70 in the second round to prove that there were good scores to be had at the U.S. Open.

But until Mediate started playing in the afternoon, nobody made a serious move on Hicks, whose 68 tied Streelman for the best score of the first round.

Garcia was 4 over for the tournament while Trahan and Love III were each 1 under. Love was in contention after missing the Masters, ending a streak of 70 straight majors, and getting to the U.S. Open through qualifying.

Streelman dropped off the leaderboard with a triple-bogey on the par-3 third hole.

"Optimal scoring conditions, I felt," Streelman said. "There are certain places you can't miss the ball on some of these short sides and approach shots and par-3s. And I did that three or four times. You have to pay the price in the U.S. Open."

Among those who had their chances in the morning rounds, but couldn't cash in, were Luke Donald, two-time champion Ernie Els and 2006 winner Geoff Ogilvy, all of whom got to 2 under for a time.

Els closed with two birdies to shoot 72 and finish at even. Ogilvy shot 73 to also finish at even, failing to make another birdie after he sank a 25-foot downhill putt on No. 5. And Donald made three bogeys on the back to shoot his second straight 71.

"The greens are usually a little more forgiving in the morning, the putts are smoother, and you can control your ball better," Donald said. "Other than that, it wasn't too different."

On Thursday, Torrey Pines allowed only 11 scores under par, and with about half the field done it looked like that number could dwindle for the second round. Pin positions were tougher and the greens had dried a bit. The kikuya rough was growing and moist and the wind was light but steady off the Pacific Ocean.

Those were the conditions awaiting Hicks, the Nationwide Tour journeyman who took the surprising first-round lead with his 68, as well as Woods, Mickelson and Scott, ranked 1, 2 and 3 in the world.

So much was expected from that group, but they didn't live up to the hype on Thursday. Woods opened with a double bogey and shot 72. Mickelson finished at 71 and Scott at 73.

"We're all going to make mistakes out here," Woods said.

Hicks, meanwhile, came in ranked 722 and Streelman 608. Their rise to the top after one day was an instructive example of the way the U.S. Open - the toughest test in golf - can often muddy the line between great and good over the span of a weekend.

Streelman got a good feel for how Torrey Pines could give, then take away. The co-leader with Hicks after the first round, he was still 3 under heading into the third hole Friday, when he hit his tee shot into a fried-egg lie in a bunker, flew the second shot over the green and down a slick hill, chipped up and then three-putted from 30 feet for a 6.

Another bad lie in a bunker led to a double-bogey on the par-4 15th.

"It was two terrible lies and two bunkers cost me a triple and a double," Streelman said. "If I could have salvaged bogeys out of those, I would have been right in the hunt. It's a learning process."