It's shaping as one of the great US Open weekends
BY Bruce Young | US PGA Tour | 2005 US Open | Round Two | 18 Jun 2005
The USGA will be no doubt rubbing their hands with glee as the scenario for the final 36 holes of the 2005 US Open is crystallized.
83 players within ten shots of the lead may not be the ideal scenario for tournament logistics on days three and four of a tournament of this level, but the manner in which the field is stacked up and the strength at the top of the leaderboard makes for a fascinating conclusion.
There are just so many chances here now and although the defending champion Goosen looks rock solid in search of his third victory in this event, he knows only too well that there are many, both close to him on the leaderboard and beyond, who are still chances of taking his US Open crown.
Goosen, Olin Browne and relative unknown Jason Gore share the lead at two under with another shot back to the unflappable Korean K.J. Choi and Australian Mark Hensby.
Goosen admitted that he had not played quite as well today as he had on day one but that his putting had kept him in it. He opened with a birdie at his first hole of the day, the par five 10th but then took bogey at the par three 15th to turn at even par and two under for the tournament. A birdie at the first hole saw him move to three under and when he birdied the par five 4th after hitting his second through the green he was at four under and threatening to open up a big 36 hole lead.
Pinehurst, however, had other ideas and at the 5th after a great drive and a very good second he was perhaps unlucky to dribble off the green right and was then left with a difficult task to save par. He missed from 5 feet and he was back to three under. He made a good par save at the 6th then at the 7th, after his tee shot found the right hand rough, his approach finished in an almost impossible position. He did brilliantly to hit it as close as he did but missed from five feet for another bogey and finished with two pars for his 70 and his two under total.
Browne, who had played so beautifully yesterday did not play as well from tee to green in round two but was regularly saved by his putter. He was out in 36 after a bogey at the 14th (his 5th) then picked up birdies at his 11th and 12th holes to go to four under and the outright lead before disaster struck at the par three 6th. He missed the green left with his tee shot there and then proceeded to blade his second across the green into the right hand trap. He was long from there, running down into the swale beyond and now faced the likelihood of a triple bogey. It became even more likely when he left his fourth twenty feet short but when he holed it from there he had dodged a bullet both to his scorecard and his mind. He finished with three straight pars and at two under he will play with Goosen in the final group tomorrow.
Also at two under is the 31-year-old Jason Gore. Gore was a brilliant amateur at Pepperdine University where he was a member of the NCAA winning team in 1997 and also a member of the Walker Cup winning team that same year. He turned professional in 1997 after the Walker Cup but has struggled in the professional ranks somewhat although he has twice made it to the PGA Tour. He is now playing the Nationwide Tour and to be sharing the 36 hole lead in just his second US Open (his first was in 1998) and in just his second major period, is quite something. He required only 24 putts today but his overall game was not bad either.
At one under and just one back are both K.J. Choi and Mark Hensby. Choi has shown previously that he has both the game and demeanour for major golf with top tens at both Augusta and the PGA. He has an unflappable nature and today his round was highlighted by a great start that included a birdie at the third and an eagle at the fourth. That set up the round although a late birdie at the 17th kept him under par.
Hensby is simply amazing. This is his first US Open and just his third major of any sort and as was the case at the Masters in April, he has taken it in his stride. He seems unfazed by anything. His fifth place at Augusta was stunning and, given the way he is going about his business here, another top five or even better would not be the surprise it was two months ago.
Poised not far behind are many of those who were expected to do well in pre-tournament calculations and some who weren’t.
Michael Campbell has continued his recent return to form in Europe with by far his best start in a US Open. This is Campbell’s 7th Open and given that he has missed his last four cuts in this event, his effort to date is encouraging. He has recorded more birdies than any other player amongst the top twenty or so and given his putting stats he has missed a few also. From tee to green he has played beautifully and if he can find a way to keep it going and improve his putting slightly then he may just surprise many.
Garcia and Singh are also at even par along with Westwood but the line up at one over is also impressive given their standing in world golf.
Tiger Woods found a way to come back from a first nine that could have seen him go either way on the back nine today.
After a good start he bogeyed holes 6, 8 and 9 to slip to two over for the day and the tournament. He looked frustrated and will no doubt have incurred the wroth of the USGA and the millions watching either at Pinehurst or worldwide with his antics when missing a putt at the 9th. Faced with a par putt from around 10 feet there he left it short which he had been doing for much of the round to there. He dragged his putter along the ground to emphasise the effect the grass and uphill nature of the putt had on his effort. It left a scuff mark and his action could have been forgiven, but only just, if he had taken the time to repair the damage. After all this was a piece of green across which many others would likely putt their ball over the next three hours or so but he chose not to. It was the least impressive moment of Tiger’s day and in many eyes not becoming the class act he normally is. It gave little consideration to those who would follow as after all they would not be allowed to repair that line themselves. Woods made a great birdie at the 16th after a huge tee shot and perhaps should have repeated the dose at the last when he missed from 9 feet. At just one over and only three back he lurks as a huge menace to others who fancy their chances.
Jim Furyk has gone quietly about his business but is there to get going when the going gets tough as it surely will over the weekend. Three birdies and three bogeys typify Furyk’s game with lots of fairways and lots of greens hit, today especially. He is in this up to his eyeballs and his capacity to minimise mistakes is going to stand him in good stead over a weekend where everyone is likely to make some.
Rocco Mediate was contending for the lead until three late bogeys saw him slip back but he is still in the mix at one over.
Adam Scott has done very well to continue his fine form of yesterday although his ball striking was not at the same level today. He putted well however and at just one over and three back, not only has he a chance of having his best finish in a major but that much anticipated first victory at the highest level.
Another Australian to shine, and his case surprise, is the 2002 Australian Open champion Steve Allan. Allan played at Pinehurst in 1999 when he also made the cut finishing 42nd that year. He has played a little better in recent weeks but this is a performance fighting well above his weight. He has had only three birdies in his 36 holes but he has minimised his mistakes and if he is able to do that in what might well be his most demanding test in professional golf to date, he has a chance of perhaps leading the Australians at least. It will be a big test, but so far so good.
Amongst those at two over is David Toms who had a piece of the lead until a triple and double bogey finish saw him limp to the finish. He is still not out of calculations but he will find it difficult to clear his mind of that over the weekend.
Two of the favourites Ernie Els and Phil Mickelson really disappointed, perhaps more so Mickelson who made such a good start yesterday. Mickelson’s outward nine of 41 was most unexpected but now even at six over, he probably does not see himself as out of the event. He will need something very special though if he is to work his way back into it.
Els had a shocking day on the greens with 36 putts and that was about the story of his second round. He has not driven the ball well all week in terms of accuracy and he has left himself too much to do on the greens too often. Like Mickelson he is not exactly out of it but it will require a Herculean effort if he is to figure.
Of the Australians, eight in total have made the cut. In addition to Hensby, Scott and Allan mentioned above, Steve Elkington, Nick O’Hern, Richard Green, Peter Lonard and Geoff Ogilvy are still in the event. Elkington continues to build on the form he showed last week in Maryland. It was his putter that kept him in it today. He has enough experience to know that he only has to hang around tomorrow for him to be a contender on Sunday. Even hanging around at Pinehurst over the next two days though will require a lot of effort.
O’Hern has played as well as anyone from tee to green if that counts for anything in the final analysis. He leads the driving accuracy stats and is hitting a comparatively lot of greens as a result. He could again work his way into calculations by Sunday evening.
The other Australians still here all have a big task if they are to challenge at all but at least they are still in with a chance.