Tiger Woods, bothered by an elbow injury, is 3 over par heading into today’s third round of the U.S. Open, four shots behind leaders Phil Mickelson and Billy Horschel as he continues his quest for his next major title.
Woods, a three-time U.S. Open winner whose last major victory came five years ago at the 2008 event, shot rounds of 73 and even-par 70 at Merion Golf Club in Ardmore, Pennsylvania.
The 37-year-old Woods played 25 holes yesterday after two rain delays on the tournament’s opening day forced 78 of 156 golfers in the field to finish their first 18 holes a day later than scheduled.
“It takes its toll on you,” Woods told reporters. “It’s long days. I played well. I just made a couple of mistakes out there, but it was a pretty good day.”
Mickelson, a five-time U.S. Open runner-up, and Horschel, who earned his first U.S. PGA Tour victory in April in New Orleans, are at 1 under. Mickelson holed a birdie putt from about 25 feet on the 18th green moments after a horn sounded to stop play due to darkness. Players have the option to finish the hole.
Mickelson and Horschel are the only players under par for the tournament, which was halted with 68 players yet to finish their second rounds. Second-round play will conclude this morning before third-round play begins.
Over his opening 36 holes, Woods shook his left arm and clenched his teeth in pain on numerous occasions after hitting pitch shots out of the thick, damp 5-inch rough lining Merion’s fairways.
He offered little explanation for the injury, saying he tweaked his arm during the Players Championship in May. He declined to be more specific, saying only that the injury happened while playing in “one of the rounds.”
While Woods remained mum, PGA Tour player Notah Begay, Woods’s former teammate at Stanford University, said he was suffering from a strained elbow. Woods attempted to reduce swelling in his elbow with ice and some electric stimulation treatment after the opening day, Begay said on NBC’s broadcast.
Woods has dealt with injuries in previous U.S. Opens, most notably when a left knee injury hampered him during the 2008 event at Torrey Pines in San Diego. That year, a limping Woods went on to defeat Rocco Mediate in a 19-hole playoff, giving him the most recent of his major titles.
Although Woods was limping and his pain was clearly visible during the 2008 event, he deflected questions about the injury throughout the week. He has taken the same approach at Merion when queried about his wrist.
“Pain,” he said when asked about what was making him wince. “But it is what it is and you move on.”
A left wrist injury, suffered while trying to hack a shot out of long grass, forced Woods to withdraw from the 1995 U.S. Open at New York’s Shinnecock Hills Golf Club after just five holes.
After a brief break to eat lunch following the completion of the remaining seven holes of his opening round, Woods began his second round yesterday on the course’s 11th hole and had two bogeys and a birdie through the first eight holes to fall back to 4 over. He cut into his deficit with birdies on the course’s par-4 second and fourth holes to reach 2 over for the tournament.
Woods avoided a potential bogey on the fifth when he rolled in a curling 15-foot par-saving putt, only to bogey the 363-yard seventh hole when his chip shot from just off the green came up five feet short of the hole.
“It’s one of those shots where you’re either going to flub it or you’re going to hit it 20 feet past,” Woods said of his failed chip. “I got a big chunk and the golf ball didn’t go anywhere.”
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