While golf watchers on Friday were anointing 17-year-old Beau Hossler the winner of this week’s U.S. Open, Tiger Woods was grabbing the advantage, losing it, scrambling to a share of the lead with Jim Furyk and ending his second round tied at the top with Furyk and David Toms.
A birdie on the par-3 third hole gave Woods a quick one-shot lead on Friday, and, just as fast, he dropped three shots with consecutive bogeys on Nos. 5, 6, and 7 as Hossler cruised through his first nine on the back nine at 1-under. Then reality set in for the high schooler, who fell victim to the tough opening holes while a confident, comfortable and controlled Woods battled back with an even-par 70.
Woods’ early woes began when his approach shot to the fifth found a bunker, and he missed a short par putt. On the next hole, his shot to the green ended up on a downhill lie in deep rough atop a bunker. An awkward stance required him to choke up on a club and chop the ball out of the tall grass, leading to another bogey.
A three-putt on the par-4 seventh put him at 1-over, but a par at eight broke the bogey streak. Woods got back to even-par with a birdie on the 10th after a huge drive and a 30-foot putt that elicited a raised putter as the ball fell. A 7-iron to the par-3 13th left just a five footer, which he drilled for another birdie to get to 1-under and into a tie with Furyk for the lead.
An approach shot that landed in a green-side bunker led to a disappointing par on the shortened par-5 16th hole, and Tiger followed that with another unhappy par on the par-5 17th after his second shot from 225 yards hit the front of the green, blew by the flag and rolled all the way down the slope at the back of the putting surface. His third shot was one of his finest on the day, a beautiful approach that left him 10 feet for birdie, but his putt slid low.
A deft touch from the bunker fronting the 18th led to a finishing par and a date with Furyk in Saturday’s final pairing.
“That was hard. It was rough,” Woods told ESPN following his round. “That golf course is some kinda fast. It is so difficult.”
Hossler posted a 1-under 35 on his outgoing 10 holes (he started on the ninth) and birdied the par-4 first hole to get to 2-under after 11. Perhaps realizing he was leading the U.S. Open -- or maybe being snapped up as The Olympic Club bared its teeth -- Hossler finished his second round with a birdie, a double-bogey and four bogeys, including one at the par-3 eighth, to fall to 3-over for the week.
Throughout his round, while he was trending worldwide on Twitter, the Santa Margarita (Calif.) High junior remained calm.
“It was pretty special ... it was amazing,” Hossler said about holding the brief lead. “I never really got that nervous, but in the middle of the round I felt very comfortable.”
The course took a heavier toll on veterans with Woods’ playing partner Bubba Watson (9-over), world No. 1 Luke Donald (11-over), and defending champion Rory McIlroy (10-over) among the big names missing the 8-over cut. The third member of Woods’ marquee grouping, Phil Mickelson, doggedly fought his way back into the conversation with a birdie at 18 that saved him from the cut at 7-over for the tournament.
Woods, by the way, is eight for nine when leading or sharing the lead after 36 holes in major championships.