Commentary

Three Up, Three Down: Woods rising, first-round leaders fading fast

Originally Published: June 13, 2008
By Jason Sobel | ESPN.com

SAN DIEGO -- What do Neal Lancaster, Neal Lancaster and Vijay Singh have in common? They've shot the only three nine-hole scores in U.S. Open history better than the 5-under 30 fired by Tiger Woods in the second round at Torrey Pines on Friday.

(And no, the Lancaster redundancy isn't a typo: He shot nine-hole scores of 29 in both 1995 and 1996. Singh's 29 occurred during the 2003 edition.)

Woods' birdie barrage helped him climb the leaderboard, but more importantly, it vaulted him into the Three Up section of this piece. As for Three Down? Check out the guys leaving Torrey Pines in their rearview mirror.

Three Up
Tiger Woods

After Thursday's opening-round 72, I suggested that it was possibly the worst we'd see Woods play all week. So far, so true, as the world's top-ranked player made an eagle and five birdies en route to a 68.

"I've been in, whether you call it the zone or not, it just feels it's a nice rhythm," said Woods, who is trying to join Jack Nicklaus as the only players to win the career Grand Slam three times. "Been there before. I shot some good rounds doing that. But today I was just trying to get back to even par, to be honest with you. That's all I was trying to do. And I just happened to make a couple more putts. That's about it."

Americans


The last U.S.-born player to win the U.S. Open was Jim Furyk in 2003 -- the longest such winless drought since British players took the first 16 editions of this event, ending in 1910. Entering the weekend, though, the stars and stripes have a handful of horses in the race. Of course there's Woods, but Rocco Mediate, D.J. Trahan and Davis Love III are also in the top 5 (well, really the top 8, thanks to ties).

"I love this tournament because … it's ours. It's our tournament," Mediate said. "It's the championship of the United States. So it's pretty cool. The setup is my favorite setup. I would like to play this every -- maybe three weeks a month. Take a week off to kind of unwind."

Amateurs

No non-professional players reached the weekend at either of the past two U.S. Opens, but three amateurs will be playing all four rounds this time around. University of Louisville product Derek Fathauer is the current low am at 4 over, followed by Alabama's Michael Thompson (5 over) and Oklahoma State's Rickie Fowler (7 over).

Three Down
Round 1 Leaders

The good news? Kevin Streelman and Justin Hicks each made the cut, leaving Rod Pampling as the only player to ever lead a major after the opening round and fail to reach the weekend (at the 1999 British Open). The bad news: They shot a combined 15-over-par on Friday, as Streelman posted a 77 in the morning and Hicks followed with an 80 in the afternoon.
Ian Poulter

About six months ago, Poulter predicted that he would win this year's U.S. Open, a tournament in which he's found moderate success in recent years. On Friday, however, the Brit was angling toward missing the cut, before he withdrew more than halfway through the second round due to a wrist injury.

Baby Bombers

At 7,643 yards on the scorecard, Torrey Pines' South Course is the longest venue in major championship history. Even so, the PGA Tour's top two driving distance leaders, Bubba Watson and J.B. Holmes, each found themselves on the wrong side of the cut line after 36 holes, proving once again that sometimes short and accurate can outperform long and strong on a U.S. Open course.

Jason Sobel covers golf for ESPN.com. He can be reached at Jason.Sobel@espn3.com.


Jason Sobel | email

Golf Editor, ESPN.com
Jason Sobel, who joined ESPN in 1997, earned four Sports Emmy awards as a member of ESPN's Studio Production department. He became ESPN.com's golf editor in July 2004.

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