Tiger Woods’s new golf swing has reached the stage where he can hit a variety of shot shapes and make adjustments to his game mid-round, his U.S. Open playing partner Bubba Watson said.
Woods’s play during a 1-under-par 69 round yesterday was hard to ignore, Masters Tournament champion Watson said, and put him in position to make a run at a 15th major title.
“He shaped it the way he wanted to shape it,” Watson told reporters at San Francisco’s Olympic Club. “I didn’t see any bad swings. I didn’t see any bad shot, really.”
Woods is three shots behind leader Michael Thompson entering today’s second round. Woods, Watson and Phil Mickelson will tee off at 1:29 p.m. local time.
The second round began under a sunny sky, with a temperature of 52 degrees (11 degrees Celsius). The forecast calls for sun the rest of the weekend.
While Woods, 36, tries to end a four-year winless drought in major championships, Mickelson and Watson will spend today trying to make the cut for weekend play. Mickelson, a five-time U.S. Open runner-up, is 6 over, two ahead of Watson.
Woods hit 10 of 14 fairways in a round containing three birdies and two bogeys yesterday. He used his driver three times, on holes 9, 10 and 16, favoring irons from other tees.
Woods said he enjoys the challenge of the hard fairways and fast greens at the Olympic Club, a course near the Pacific Ocean on the southwestern tip of San Francisco.
“I’ve always preferred the conditions to be difficult,” Woods said. “It brings our mind into play and I like that.”
Before winning the Memorial Tournament two weeks ago, his second victory of the year, Woods hadn’t finished better than 40th in three tournaments, including a missed cut at Charlotte’s Quail Hollow Club. It marked the worst stretch of his professional career.
Although Watson struggled, he couldn’t help notice how Woods’s game has improved.
“That was the old Tiger,” Watson said. “That was beautiful to watch. That’s what we all come to see.”
Thompson, 27, had seven birdies and three bogeys in his round of 4-under- par 66. He’s playing in his second U.S. Open after a tie for 29th at Torrey Pines in 2008.
David Toms, Nick Watney, Justin Rose and 2010 champion Graeme McDowell are tied for second with Woods at 1-under.
Woods had a bogey on his sixth hole when his second shot flew over the green and wound up next to a fence.
He scored birdie three holes later and missed a chance for another on his 12th hole when a two-foot putt lipped around the cup. He got his second birdie with a 12-foot putt two holes later.
On the next hole, the 498-yard, par-4 fifth, a fast-moving 40-foot putt through shadows dropped into the hole for a birdie. Woods made a little pump of his right fist, shook his head and then gave a long sigh.
“A fluke,” Woods said. “That putt was off the green.”
He bogeyed the next hole after landing his second shot in the sand.
“The golf course was really quick, I was surprised at how much it had changed overnight,” Woods said. “We had to make a few adjustments.”
Mickelson lost his ball on his opening hole when his tee shot went into the trees and couldn’t be found. He had one birdie and seven bogeys in his round.
Woods, who tied Jack Nicklaus with his 73rd PGA Tour victory at the Memorial, can move within three of Nicklaus’s record 18 major titles this week. Woods has been stuck at 14 majors since defeating Rocco Mediate in a 19-hole playoff in the 2008 U.S. Open.
Andy Zhang of China, at 14 the youngest golfer on record to play in the U.S. Open, was 8-over after his first five holes. He birdied his final hole for a 9-over 79, the same score as world No. 1 Luke Donald.
Casey Martin, Woods’s former teammate at Stanford University who uses a golf cart between shots because of a debilitating leg condition, shot 4-over 74.