Tiger Woods stormed into contention by firing a three-under 68 on Friday with a late charge that vaulted him into a share of second place after 36 holes of the US Open.
World No. 1 Woods rolled in five birdies on the back nine to reach two-under 140, one shot behind leader Stuart Appleby of Australia at the 7,643 yard Torrey Pines South course.
“I just kept patient,” Woods said. “All I was trying to do was get back to even par for the tournament. All of a sudden they started flying in from everywhere.”
Woods, who won the second of his two US Open titles in 2002, started the day four shots behind the leaders.
Teeing off on 10, he was two-over on his sloppily played outward nine where he missed three of his first eight fairways. But he fired a blistering five-under 30 coming home.
It was just the third time Woods has scored 30 or lower for nine holes in a major.
Woods was able to hit his stride despite playing with a sore knee. This is Woods’ first competitive tournament in eight weeks following post-Masters knee surgery.
Australia’s Appleby shot a 70 to reach three-under 139, one ahead of Woods, Sweden’s Robert Karlsson and American Rocco Mediate.
Appleby capped off his round with a 45-foot birdie putt on No. 18.
“Typical stuff when you are at 50 feet. You try to use your natural feel,” Appleby said. “Knocked it on to about 45 feet. Bingo.”
DJ Trahan (69), Davis Love (69) and Lee Westwood (71) Miguel Jimenez (66) were two shots off the lead on one-under 141.
Playing in a supergroup with Phil Mickelson, Woods found his touch at the turn. He had one stunning stretch where he posted four birdies over five holes beginning at the par-four 448 No.1 tee.
He hit one of his best shots of the day on that hole, and it helped kick-start his round.
Despite having to stand on the cart path to hit his approach shot, Woods was still able to put his ball in the center of the green. The shot was made more difficult because the ball was wedged between the cement path and a large tree.
After shooting an opening round 71, Mickelson was unable to outscore Woods for the second straight day. His four-over 75 left him seven strokes off the lead.
Woods and Mickelson, who had been grouped together in the opening rounds of a major just once before, have nine victories between them in the PGA Tour’s Buick Invitational at Torrey Pines, Woods owning six of them.
Mickelson’s four-over total of 146 was tied with Aussie Adam Scott, the world No. 3 who rounded out the star-studded pairing that was followed by a massive gallery numbering of over 10,000 people each day.
“I didn’t get anything going. When I made a birdie I followed it with a bogey. And I didn’t get the momentum from the crowd,” Mickelson said.
Scott also had an up and down round on Friday, shooting his second straight 73.
First round co-leaders Kevin Streelman and Justin Hicks tumbled down the leaderboard on Friday.
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