June 15, 2012; San Francisco, CA, USA; Tiger Woods (not pictured) golf bag stands on the 1st tee box during the second round of the 112th U.S. Open golf tournament at The Olympic Club. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-US PRESSWIRE
What's it like to spend a day at the U.S. Open with Tiger Woods? Brian Floyd found out during Friday's second round, which was probably better than the Nothed Golf Enthusiast's 69 on Thursday.
The supergroup never did live up to its billing, but Tiger Woods emerged from the bloodbath with a share of the tournament lead after two days. By the time Tiger, Phil Mickelson and Bubba Watson made it through 36 holes, the group was a combined 15-over. And that was with Tiger finishing at 1-under.
The stage belonged to Tiger Woods, and his playing partners were along for the ride. For the second day in a row, I followed the group around the course, curious to see whether Tiger would continue to cruise or if he would run into difficulty. The latter happened, but how he responded says a lot about where his game is at right now.
With that in mind, here are a few notes from Friday.
- This wasn't Tiger's best round in terms of score, but it was probably better than Thursday's round of 69. He wasn't in complete command and caught more terrible breaks than good ones, but he scrambled, making solid par saves and avoiding big numbers again. It was a grind-it-out round, and Tiger survived to walk into the clubhouse with a share of the lead.
- The par-3 third sits in a valley, with a setup that resembles an amphitheater. With a hill full of people on one side, the grandstands behind the green and a large crowd on the other side, it funnels noise straight to the green. As Tiger's tee shot nestled in tight -- a wonderful approach off the tee -- a marshal leaned over and said, "When he makes this, watch this place explode." He calmly drained the putt and the wave of sound that resulted was indescribable. It was a roar that makes the hairs on your arms stand up. The crowd was looking for a reason to go crazy, and Woods gave them a perfect one.
- Over the first four holes, Woods looked on his game. He was 1-under on the toughest stretch The Olympic Club has to offer and looked to be in control of both his round and the tournament. Then the wheels came off and Tiger was put on tilt. A bogey on No. 5 got it started, and a bad hop on the next hole left him scrambling for a bogey. On No. 7, he again struggled, this time three-putting for bogey. He'd played 22 holes about as well as could be expected, but at that point it looked like all the work he'd done so far would unravel.
- Woods stopped the skid on No. 10 by ripping a drive well past those of Bubba Watson and Phil Mickelson, then draining his birdie putt a short time later. But the turnaround all got started on No. 8, following his three-putt bogey. He hit a nice approach, the only one of the group to hit the green on the par-3, and though he missed the putt, it was a good way to bounce back, he said after the round.
- The best shot I've watched in person during the tournament so far was easily Woods' tee shot on the par-3 13. Standing behind him as he teed off, I had a front row seat to a wonderfully executed draw that soared sky-high before gently dropping onto the front of the green and within four feet of the hole. The trajectory, line and shape were all absolutely perfect.
- On 17, Tiger hit a wonderful approach. It was exactly what he wanted to do: a high shot with left-to-right shape. And the shot landed right where he wanted it to, just on the front edge of the green. What happened next was just poor luck and The Olympic Club showing its teeth. The superb shot took a high bounce and picked up speed, rolling back and to the right before sliding off the green and down to the bottom of the chipping area.
- Twice Tiger stood in a bunker with one leg resting on the lip and hit a shot on one foot. Both times, he ended up in a somewhat manageable spot, though you wouldn't know it from the words coming out of his mouth. That he didn't end up hurting himself while contorting into position and making a swing is a feat in itself.
- Tiger leads the field in fairways hit through two rounds at 75 percent. He's only hitting his driver three times a round -- on No. 9, No. 10 and No. 16 -- but his driving iron and 3-wood have been dead on. The beauty of The Olympic Course for Tiger is the speed of the fairways. He can hit a stinger into fairways that run like driveways and watch it roll out past the drives of his playing partners. He's comfortable off the tee for the first time in a long time.
- Every time Bubba Watson reaches into his bag and pulls out the pink driver, the crowd roars. But there's something about him doing it on the 16th fairway that makes fans go nuts. He did it on Thursday, hitting a poor shot that probably wasn't worth it. And he did it again on Friday, hitting an insane high-cut that ended up curving all the way into the front bunker. I'll miss Bubba hitting driver off the deck, and the reaction that comes with it.
- Green Bay Packers' Super Bowl MVP and former Cal quarterback Aaron Rodgers walked along with the grouping all day, tracking the supergroup as a fan. Seeing people in San Francisco mistake him for Alex Smith struck me as funny.
- Fred Couples also walked along with the group for part of the day, perhaps scouting out his Presidents Cup squad. The fans absolutely love Couples. Yells of "Freddie" were kind of like his cowbell. One could always tell where he was.
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