SAN FRANCISCO – Phase II of the Tiger Woods major reclamation project is successfully in the books.
After Thursday’s precision opening round 69 that left his glamorous playing partners choking on dust with mouths agape, Woods flashed another one of his old trademarks on Friday afternoon – the hang-around even-par scramble with his B-game.
“Well, that was not easy,” said Woods after rallying for a 70 despite three consecutive bogeys on the front-nine.
On a breezy afternoon with a course getting crustier and more difficult by the minute, Woods refused to let go of his perch on the leaderboard. A long birdie putt on the 10th and a dart to set up another on the par-3 13th erased the frustration of a bogey run on 5, 6 and 7.
Where did his second-round 70 rate compared to his 69 the day before?
“Probably better. Absolutely,” he said. “Even though I didn’t miss a shot in the last three holes and ended up with three pars, but it was just one of those days where you just had to be so patient.”
Woods is now in a most familiar spot – in the final pairing playing friend and frequent international team partner Jim Furyk, the 2003 U.S. Open winner. Along with 2001 PGA champion David Toms, they are the only players in red figures at The Olympic Club. Graeme McDowell, the 2010 U.S. Open winner at Pebble Beach, and first-round leader Michael Thompson share fourth with John Peterson and Nicolas Colsaerts at 1-over par.
“As far as the being in that position, I like it,” said Woods. “I know that it takes a bit out of us, but so be it. Much rather be there than missing cuts or just making the cut. So it’s a wonderful place to be with a chance to win your nation’s Open.”
Woods’ last major was four years ago at the 2008 U.S. Open down the state at Torrey Pines. With three U.S. Open wins among his 14 career major titles, he still has the mental inventory to remember the process.
“This tournament, you’re just plodding along,” he 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.”
Now Woods moves on to Phase III – grab the lead before he suits up in his Sunday red for Phase IV. Woods has never come from behind in the final round to win any of his majors, and only once has he lost a 54-hole in a major when Y.E. Yang rallied to beat him in the 2009 PGA at Hazeltine.
That next step usually involves setting the bar with a low round that so far hasn’t been common at Olympic. Only three rounds better than 69 have been posted all week – Thompson’s 66 on Thursday, Hunter Hamrick’s 67 and Steve Stricker’s 68 Friday.
“It will be interesting to see if they make it scorable (on the weekend) or they’re going to really test us,” Woods said.