June 17, 2006

Sweden’s Hedblom comes out firing at US Open

By Larry Fine

MAMARONECK, New York (Reuters) - Sweden's Peter Hedblom
used a double dose of eagle magic on Saturday to shoot into
contention early in the third round of the U.S. Open golf
championship at Winged Foot.

A hole-in-one at the third and a long eagle putt at the
515-yard par-five fifth, swept Hedblom from six over par to two
over par, three shots behind overnight leader Steve Stricker.

Warm and muggy conditions met golfers on Saturday's
so-called moving day at the U.S. Open, with contenders anxious
not to move backwards in the exacting demands of Winged Foot.

Hedblom, however, gave cause for optimism that good scores
could be posted on the classic Winged Foot layout, at 7,264
yards the longest ever to host a U.S. Open.

Stricker, at one-under 139, was the only player in the
156-man field to stand under par after the first 36 holes. He
held a one-shot lead over Briton Colin Montgomerie, with whom
he was teeing off as the final pairing at 3 p.m. (1900 gmt).

Australian Geoff Ogilvy and Briton Kenneth Ferrie were two
strokes of the pace. Thirteen players in all were within five
shots with another seven one more shot back as the day began.

Phil Mickelson, the reigning PGA and Masters champion
gunning for his third major title in a row, was at three over

Japan's Ryuji Imada gave further evidence under overcast
skies that players might find scoring a touch easier Saturday
as he shot one-under 69 to finish the third round at eight over

Missing from the weekend scene for the first time in 10
years of major championships was Tiger Woods, whose streak of
39 successive cuts at majors ended Friday when he posted his
second 76 to miss the cut by three strokes.

One contender said Woods' absence might provide the
survivors with an added lift.

"It helps. It helps us all," said Montgomerie, eight times
Europe's number one player, who is still in search of his first
major golf crown.

"Now Tiger is not here, of course it gives everybody an
opportunity. The one time that he has mised the cut, it would
be nice to take full advantage of it."

Woods, who was playing for the first time in nine weeks
following the death of his father, had never missed a cut in
the majors since turning professional in 1997 and had also made
two previous as an amateur at the U.S. and British Opens in a
record streak that matched Jack Nicklaus.