Winged Foot was full of surprises Friday, none bigger than Tiger Woods going home early.
Woods returned from his longest layoff by making his earliest departure at a major, missing the cut in a Grand Slam tournament for the first time as a pro and leaving this U.S. Open in the hands of an eclectic mix of players that includes Phil Mickelson, his biggest rival.
'I don't care if you had what transpired in my life of recent or not,' said Woods, playing for the first time since his father died and posting rounds of 76-76 to miss by three shots. 'Poor execution is never going to feel very good.'
About the only thing that feels good at Winged Foot is getting off the course with limited damage.
Stricker was stumbling with consecutive bogeys from the bunker, and another one loomed when he pulled his 9-iron into the sand left of the ninth green. Hoping to get it close, he sank the shot for an unlikely birdie and a 1-under 69 that left him the only player under par going into the weekend at 139.
One stroke behind was Colin Montgomerie, who was steady off the tee and on his scorecard. The best player without a major suddenly looks like it's not too late to shed that burdensome baggage, getting around with only one bogey for a 71 to finish at even-par 140.
'Assess the round?' Monty mused. 'Seventeen pars, one bogey. That's good. That's very good. One mistake is good. No birdies isn't.'
Match Play champion Geoff Ogilvy and Kenneth Ferrie each had even-par 70 to finish at 141, and Ferrie showed how quickly this course, with its deep rough and undulating greens, can wipe out a good day. He reached 3 under par for the tournament until double bogeys on the 14th and 15th holes.
For all the thrills and mostly spills, two players considered favorites at this championship were looming not far from lead.
One of them was Jim Furyk, the 2003 winner at Olympia Fields. He ran off nine straight pars before hitting a few bumps coming in, but still managed a 72 and was at 212, along with Padraig Harrington (69).
The other was Mickelson, who celebrated his 36th birthday Friday, as if the fans needed more reason to cheer.
The Masters champion, trying to join Woods as the only players in the last 50 years to win three straight majors, opened with consecutive bogeys and appeared headed down the leaderboard like so many others. But he limited his mistakes, including an up-and-down on his final hole to escape with bogey. Mickelson wound up with a 73, and at 3-over 213 was four shots behind.
'Bogeys are OK,' Mickelson said, rare words from a guy who thrives on birdies. 'I'm within four shots with two rounds to go. I'm where I wanted to be. All I wanted is a chance.'
The biggest shock -- to everyone but Duval -- was that the former British Open champion has a chance.
He opened with a 77, and most figured he would be gone by the weekend for the 12th straight time in a major. Instead, Duval went 14 holes without a bogey, rang up four birdies along the way and, except for a double bogey from the rough on No. 6, looked like a contender. He wound up with a 68, joining Arron Oberholser for the best score at Winged Foot this week.
'You see the scores when you get done and you don't know what happened,' Duval said of his recent play. 'It's those little things that need to add up in a round of golf that haven't for me.'