ARDMORE, Pa. – Tiger Woods looked in danger of missing the cut at the U.S. Open Friday early in his second round. Forty-five minutes later, he was in position to win the championship.
That’s how quickly the world No. 1 flipped the switch. That’s how jammed the top 50 positions are on the leaderboard.
After eight holes of Round 2 at Merion, Woods was 1 over on the day and 4 over for the championship, putting him one shot inside an early cut line. Woods then birdied two of the next three holes and promptly vaulted within four shots of leader Phil Mickelson.
Ultimately Woods shot a second-round 70 and stands at 3-over-par 143.
Wincing from pain in his left arm, which NBC reporter Notah Begay said was elbow inflammation, Woods creatively worked his way around Merion. (Note: Woods later admitted that he first injured his elbow during The Players.)
Two of the biggest keys were making birdies on both par 5s (the second hole where he almost holed his third shot for eagle and the fourth hole where he drained a 15 footer) and converting par saves of varying lengths. On the par-4 fifth hole, Woods was short of the green with his approach. He hit a poor chip to 12 feet but salvaged par. On the par-4 eighth hole, Woods was left off the tee, short right on the approach but got up and down for par when he drained a 14 foot putt.
“Yeah, I played well,” Woods said. “I just made a couple of mistakes out there today, but I really played well. Maybe I could have gotten one or two more out of it, but it was a pretty good day.”
Through 36 holes Woods has hit 20 of 28 fairways, 23 of 36 greens and has collected 60 putts. Woods putting performance in Round 2 was considerably better (28 vs. 32 putts) than his shaggy putting in the opening round.
When Woods finished he was tied for 29th place, five shots off the lead. But only two people ahead of him at the time had completed their second rounds. It’s likely he’ll be near the top-10 by day’s end.
“Just keep grinding,” Woods said. “You just don't ever know what the winning score is going to be. You don't know if the guys are going to come back. We have a long way to go, and these conditions aren't going to get any easier. They're going to get more difficult.”
Even though Woods is in contention, odds of winning his 15th major don’t appear in his favor. This marks the 51st time Woods has been over par after 36 holes in an event. He has never won.