June 16, 2012

Tiger roars back to his best

BACK IN THE GROOVE ... Tiger Woods
TIGER WOODS knows it and so does everyone else in the field at the US Open — he is back as the man to beat in the Majors.

Woods described his second round 70 at Olympic as one of the best level par rounds of his career.

It earned him a share of the halfway lead at one under par alongside Ryder Cup team-mates Jim Furyk and David Toms.

Woods has been in pole position after 36 holes in eight previous Majors — and only once has he failed to close the deal.

So it was no wonder he was licking his lips at the prospect of more of the same over the weekend at a course that is playing almost sadistically tough.

Even a hat-trick of bogeys between the fifth and seventh holes failed to dampen Woods’ enthusiasm for a tournament that is sorting the men from the boys.

One of the new kids on the block, 17-year-old amateur Beau Hossler, actually had the nerve to take the lead at two under par, although he fell back to finish at three over.

And when the dust settled, it was three veteran Major winners who were two shots clear of the pack as the only men to break par for the first 36 holes.

At 36, Woods is the ‘baby’ of the trio, Furyk is 42 and Toms 45.

Some baby — 14 Majors so far and suddenly the chances of him overhauling Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18 does not look so fanciful, despite his four years in the golfing wilderness.

Woods has never looked so pleased after failing to finish below par for 18 holes.

He said: “Yeah, that has to be one of my best ever level par rounds. This golf course is just so tricky, it's so fast.

“But as far as the being in this position, I like it. I know that the course takes a lot out of us, but so be it.

“I’d much rather be out there grinding for pars and hanging around the top of the leaderboard than missing cuts or just making the cut.

“I think I'm in a good spot. Right now I'm tied for the lead and I'm right there in contention.

"I’m looking forward to it and going off late on Saturday means I can get some good rest.

“It's a wonderful place to be with a chance to win your nation's Open.”

Playing partner Phil Mickelson, who scraped through the cut on seven over par, was in no doubt about the most impressive part of Woods’ display so far.

He said: “His control. Tiger’s hitting the ball very well out there.

“He has great control of his ball striking and he's able to hit a lot of the fairways. He's got a very good low shot with his long irons and his three wood, as well as plenty of action from his five-six irons.

“There's a lot of irons off these tees and he's shaping his ball well, getting it in play. Then you then he hit a lot of four, five six irons into the greens and he's doing that extremely well too.”

Tiger in complete control with every club in the bag? It is a long time since we’re heard that, especially from such a well-informed source.

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