Tiger Woods well placed for title charge

TIM DAHLBERG
Last updated 16:44 15/06/2013

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History says Tiger Woods has little chance to win this US Open. Not from behind, and certainly not with an elbow inflammation that seems to bother him most on his worst shots.

Woods says otherwise, and after a marathon stretch of play that helped him creep into contention at Merion Golf Club it's still possible he could be the one having the last say.

Trying to break a winless streak in major championships that now spans five full years, Woods played 25-plus holes in a respectable 1-over-par to move up the leaderboard on a day when many other players were going the other way.

It wasn't good enough to get under par, or even crack the top 10. But he was just four shots back and in prime position to make a move on the weekend on an Open course that is proving more challenging than a lot of people expected.

Asked if he liked his chances, Woods didn't hesitate to answer, "Yes."

Woods had some issues on a day that began for him in the early morning and didn't finish until mid-afternoon. He missed some putts he might ordinarily expect to make, barely moved a chip a few inches forward, and guessed wrongly on a couple of shots.

But he stood at 3-over 143 after two rounds - the same as playing partner Rory McIlroy.

"I just made a couple of mistakes out there today, but I really played well," Woods said. "Maybe I could have gotten one or two more out of it, but it was a pretty good day."

The night before, Woods underwent some treatment on his left elbow, which he shook several times after hitting bad shots in the first 11 holes of a rain-delayed round. He said he hurt the elbow at the Players Championship and that it was painful at times, though on his good shots it didn't seem to bother him at all.

McIlroy said he didn't even notice Woods was having difficulty with the elbow.

"I haven't seen anything wrong with him," McIlroy said after finishing with his own 73-70.

More worrisome than the elbow for Woods might be the fact he's never won a tournament after playing over par for the first two rounds. He's also never won a major championship coming from behind in the final round.

And then there's that winless streak in major championships that now stretches back to the 2008 US Open at Torrey Pines.

But while Woods remains stuck at 14 in his chase of the record of 18 majors won by Jack Nicklaus, it doesn't mean he's forgotten how to win in conditions favoured at the Open.

"Just keep grinding," he said. "You don't ever know what the winning score is going to be. You don't know if the guys are going to come back. We have a long way to go, and these conditions aren't going to get any easier."

The conditions Friday were challenging enough, though Woods and McIlroy got the better of the weather. For the most part, they avoided winds that started to pick up in the afternoon as the rain-saturated course began drying out.

McIlroy, the 2011 Open champion at Congressional who has struggled this year after switching to Nike equipment, had his moments, including an iron shot to the eighth hole that gave him a tap-in birdie and put him under par for the day. But he gave it back on the next hole and had to hit a great shot out of the deep rough on his final hole to finish off his even par second round.

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Both players made six birdies apiece during the first two rounds, but both also made nine bogeys - an average of one in every four holes.

"It tests every aspect of your game," McIlroy said, referring to Merion. "You've got to drive it well. Where these pins are, you got to hit great iron shots. You got to be very tactical. You got to be mentally really well there and have a good game plan."

Like Woods, McIlroy was comfortable with where he was midway through the championship.

"There were people talking about 62s and 63s at the start of the week and, I mean, I never saw that at all," he said. "I still think that something very little under par is going to win this week. If or if not that, around even par."

- AP

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