Woods Heads Trio Tied For 36-Hole Lead At 2012 U.S. Open
By Thomas Bonk
San Francisco – The Olympic Club didn’t give up much Friday at the U.S. Open, especially low scores, and concentrated instead on handing out a second round that consisted mainly of headache, heartache, some hard-earned pars and a three-way tie for the 36-hole lead.
Jim Furyk, David Toms and Tiger Woods – an established trio of major championship winners – led the way into the weekend, and the only players under par. Furyk’s 1-under 69 in the morning wave on the 7,170-yard Lake Course put the 2003 U.S. Open champion at 1-under 139. Woods and Toms, both of whom shot 70s, equaled his 36-hole total in the afternoon.
“It doesn’t surprise me at all what you’ve seen over the first two days and I would imagine it will continue,” said Toms, the 2001 PGA Championship winner. “I just hope I’m part of it.”
Woods said patience was paramount on the challenging USGA setup that kept any low scores out of the equation. Only seven golfers among the 156-player field broke par, but none lower than the 67 by recent University of Alabama graduate Hunter Hamrick, a 22-year-old making his professional debut this week.
Steve Stricker, who finished in the top five at the 1998 U.S. Open at Olympic, added a 68.
First-round leader Michael Thompson, who had a 66 on Thursday, struggled to a 75 and sits two shots back at 1-over 141..
“This tournament, you just [keep] plodding along,” Woods said. “This is a different tournament. You have to stay patient, got to stay present, and you’re just playing for a lot of pars.
“This is not a tournament where we have to make a bunch of birdies. Just got to just hang in there with a bunch of pars.”
A typical reaction was was offered by Graeme McDowell, the 2010 U.S. Open champion who signed for a 2-over 72 and then spoke of the grind.
“My day was equally as un-enjoyable as yesterday,” said McDowell. “It’s just tough to have fun out there, I got to be honest with you. It’s just a brutal test of golf.”
McDowell, Thompson, Nicolas Colsaerts of Belgium and qualifier John Peterson are tied for fourth, two shots off the lead, at 141. Peterson, who went through both local and sectional qualifying to earn his spot, shot an even-par 70.
Blake Adams, a 36-year-old qualifier, shot even-par 70 and is alone in eighth, three shots behind the leaders. Past USGA champions Matt Kuchar (1997 U.S. Amateur) and Hunter Mahan (1999 U.S. Junior Amateur), 2011 Masters champion Charl Schwartzel and 17-year-old amateur Beau Hossler headline a group of nine at 3-over 143, even though none broke par on Friday.
It was that kind of day at the U.S. Open, said Nick Watney.
“It’s kind of like a boxing match,” said Watney.
Olympic landed more than a few punches Friday.
High hopes didn’t necessarily translate into low scores, a trending topic that began in the morning wave when Furyk made his move.
It may have looked simple but it wasn’t, as his three-birdie, two-bogey tour across Olympic’s rugged landscape left the 2003 U.S. Open champion both grateful and relieved to have survived the journey.
“It can snowball very quickly here,” Furyk said. “It’s tough to kind of put a tourniquet on it and stop the bleeding and get the momentum changed back in the right direction on this golf course because . . . there’s not a lot of let up . . . there’s a couple of disasters waiting there.”
A string of three straight bogeys for Woods on the outward nine, beginning at the fifth, didn’t really qualify as a disaster, but they weren’t exactly a wonderful experience, either. Woods said the conditions dictated much of what happened to, well, everyone.
“It was a tough little stretch, but hey, we got a lot of holes to go . . . I had some easier holes coming up,” Woods said.
Besides, taken as a whole, The Olympic Club was as difficult as anyone could handle, Woods said.
“Well, that was not easy,” said Woods, who came home in 2-under 34 with birdies at 10 and 13. “That golf course was some kind of quick. It got dried out. The wind was swirling a little bit out there. It was tough. It was really, really tough.”
Furyk, who began his round on No. 9, had just one birdie over those 10 holes, including 5s on the only two par-5 holes on the layout. But his consistency and steadiness were more important.
“The way this golf course is set up, that’s pretty much what you need to do,” said Furyk. “It’s get the ball in the fairway or in a playable spot as best you can, get the ball on the green or in a playable spot as best you can and try to make [par].”
If that’s the recipe for success, some were unable to follow it, including the top two ranked players in the world. Rory McIlroy and Luke Donald (79-72) were among the group headed home early as the cut came at 8-over 148. McIlroy’s 77-73 left him disappointed and fell far short of what the defending U.S. Open champion expected of himself.
“We’re not used to having to land balls before the edge of the greens to let them run on,” McIlroy said. “And it’s just something that you just have to adjust to in this tournament and I wasn’t able to do that very well.”
Phil Mickelson birdied No. 18 to shoot 71 and survive the cut by one shot.
“There’s just not a lot of holes to make birdies on,” said the five-time U.S. Open runner-up.
While Furyk didn’t make it look easy, he clearly knows how to play a U.S. Open course. He won at Olympia Fields, was second in 2006 at Winged Foot and in 2007 at Oakmont, and posted a top 20 in 2010 at Pebble Beach. Last year, he missed the cut at Congressional, but Furyk didn’t really click with his game the entire year anyway.
This time may be different, but he then quickly sounded a note of caution.
“It is,” he said, “only Friday.”
Not anymore. The weekend is here and the test only gets more difficult.
Thomas Bonk is a San Francisco-based freelance writer who is contributing to usopen.com this week.