Tiger roars back into it Woods one shot behind leader Appleby
LA JOLLA, California he headlines will surely be all about Tiger Woods, after a 5-under-par 30 on his final nine holes yesterday — on one good leg — but the last word belonged to Stuart Appleby
The blond Australian rolled in a 45-foot bomb from the bottom level of the 18th green to take the outright lead at the halfway pole of the U.S. Open, and send a whole bunch of golfers home who would have made the cut on the 10-shot rule if the lead had stayed at 2 under.
Appleby hung in gamely, after being 3 under at the turn, then giving two strokes back, and fighting to the finish with birdies on both the back-nine par-5s. His long birdie putt at the 18th was all he could win back from par on an up-anddown day at Torrey Pines South, but it was enough to separate him from what was looking like a four-way tie for the lead with Rocco Mediate, Robert Karlsson, and Tiger.
“I looked at it and hit it, and you have that feeling as a player: ‘This is good, this is stiff,’” Appleby said. “Then about eight feet out, I’m thinking: ‘That might go in’ — and bingo!
“That was certainly in threeputt range, so it was a very sweet way to end.”
All eyes, though, were on the mesmerizing charge of Woods, who was 2 over for his first nine holes yesterday — the back nine — and appeared to hurt
This surgically-repaired left knee while hitting a recovery shot while standing on the cart path after a wild drive at No. 1 conked a spectator on the head. But the pain soon eased. Woods made birdie there, and reeled off five straight threes to start his homeward march, which culminated in a five-footer at the ninth to join the 45-year-old Mediate and Karlsson in a group one stroke off the lead. Woods was limping for most of the final nine holes, but grinning broadly afterward.
Not only had he dusted Phil Mickelson by seven strokes and Adam Scott by five in the marquee group of the world’s top three players — Mickelson shot 75, Scott 73 — but he had emphatically shaken off whatever faint traces of rust might have been on his game after a two-month layoff, and shortly after he made the turn for home, he was striping drives down virtually every fairway.
“I absolutely got more out of it than I even hoped for,” said Woods. “You know, I got off to a terrible start, bogeying two of the first three, then I made the eagle (on the par-5 13th), but I bogeyed 16 and 17 and didn’t par 18, even though the tee was ‘way up — so I felt like I lost three strokes there.
“So I was 3 over for the tournament at the turn, and was just trying to get it back to even par, to be honest. I just happened to make a couple more putts. The one at (No. 1) went in, and all of a sudden they started flying in from everywhere.”
The scores were out there to be had. Padraig Harrington shot a 4-under-par 67 in the morning, and Spain’s Miguel Angel Jimenez — who, like Woods, evidently hadn’t heard that it was supposed to be impossible to make putts in the afternoons on Torrey Pines’ footprint-and-spike-mark-marred greens — went one better, firing a 66 among the late finishers to get into a tie for fifth with D.J. Trahan, Davis Love III and Lee Westwood.
Only Mediate had it as low as 4 under for the tournament yesterday, and he was there with nine holes to play. But he bogeyed the 10th, 12th and 17th holes, and faced a choice on the 18th fairway, eventually handing a layup iron back to his caddy and taking out a fairway wood, which he knocked over the water hazard and onto the green. His two-putt birdie put him in the group at 140.
“I’ve never had things so much in place before in my career, so I’m definitely playing the best golf all around. I’m just enjoying it,” said Karlsson, who finished tied for eighth at the Masters and birdied out of the greenside bunker to get to that score as well. He knows people are asking who that Karlsson guy at the top of the leaderboard is, but said: “He’s the tall Swede.”
Mediate said Woods’ rise up the chart was the least surprising thing that happened all day.
“When I talk about players or golf, he’s not included, because he’s up there,” Mediate said, indicting some higher plane. “But you want him in this event. If you’re going to win this tournament, it would be great go against him and maybe, somehow ... you never know.
“I don’t have many more shots at this or at playing golf with him, if I do this weekend. But that’s what you want, as a player — to see what you got, against the man.”