Woods Rallies on Back 9 to One Behind Appleby
SAN DIEGO — The roar shook the cliffs upon which Torrey Pines is built.
When Tiger Woods rolled in that last 8-foot birdie putt to close out a terrific charge on the back nine Friday at the U.S. Open, the masses marching after him all day let loose their giddy delight.
Woods may not be leading, but he’s in charge.
If not for Stuart Appleby’s 45-foot birdie at the 18th, Woods would be atop the leaderboard heading into the weekend.
With five birdies on the back nine, Woods crawled within a shot Appleby.
Appleby’s 70 moved him to 3-under 139.
Joining Woods (68) a shot back are Rocco Mediate (71), Robert Karlsson (70) and D.J. Trahan (69).
Royal Palm Beach’s Justin Hicks, the first-round co-leader, stumbled with an 80.
Woods is not alone among major championship winners in contention.
Davis Love III (69), winner of the 1997 PGA Championship, is bidding to claim another major at 44. He is among three players two shots off the lead. Two-time U.S. Open winner Ernie Els (72) and 2006 U.S. Open winner Geoff Ogilvy (73) are among those three back.
England’s Lee Westwood (71) and Spain’s Miguel Angel Jimenez (66) are two shots back in bids to become the first European to win the U.S. Open since Tony Jacklin won it in 1970. England’s Luke Donald (71) is three back.
Woods was the big story here late in the day.
Despite limping much of the back nine on his surgically repaired left knee, the world’s No. 1 player dominated No. 2 Phil Mickelson and No. 3 Adam Scott in their marquee pairing.
Mickelson, playing without a driver, could barely hit a fairway with his 3-wood. He was short and crooked on his way to a 75, which left him seven shots off the lead.
Scott (73) and Mickelson are tied for 35th.
After struggling for 27 holes, Woods got hot with his putter.
He rolled in birdies at his 10th, 11th, 13th, 14th and 18th holes to shoot 30 on the final nine, one shot off the nine-hole U.S. Open record.
“I just kept patient,” said Woods, who was 3-over making the turn to the back nine Friday. “All I was trying to do was get back to even par. I wasn’t playing well enough to do it, and then all of a sudden [putts] started flying in from everywhere.”
At his 10th hole, Woods hit his approach standing on a cart path. He twisted his left knee and flinched in pain. He limped up the fairway and continued to limp slightly most of the back nine.
“It’s a little sore,” Woods said.
Hicks started strong, ripping his first drive down the middle of the fairway to start the second round, but he lost his form soon after. He said his pairing was informed that they were behind on time not long after teeing off. At the sixth hole, they were informed they were on the clock.
“Having the lead at the U.S. Open is not something I deal with on a daily basis,” Hicks said. “When you accompany that with, ‘Oh yeah, by the way, you’re behind and you have to pick it up,’ or you’re being timed and possibly penalized, it got me going in a different direction than I was wanting to play.”
Appleby, 37, is an eight-time PGA Tour winner, but he has a dreadful U.S. Open record. He has missed the cut in seven of 11 U.S. Open starts. He tied for 10th in ’98 but hasn’t finished better than a tie for 26th since.
“Majors are not a comfortable zone,” Appleby said. “Do I think I am more comfortable? Yeah, I might be. I think as you get older, you find a way to be more comfortable.”
Appleby knows what 13-time major champion is on his heels. He’s good friends with Woods.
“I’ll be doing my best to accidentally throw a club toward his knee,” Appleby joked.