- Last Updated: 12:44 PM, June 16, 2012
- Posted: 2:15 AM, June 16, 2012
SAN FRANCISCO — The lead in a major championship is like home for Tiger Woods. It’s a familiar and comfortable place for him.
What makes Woods even more comfortable than his position on the U.S. Open leaderboard after chasing his opening-round 69 with a 70 yesterday is the fact he’s striking the ball and in control of his game better than he has been in a long time.
Woods, one of the greatest front-runners golf has ever seen, enters today’s third round at Olympic Club tied at 1-under par with a pair of fellow major winners, Jim Furyk and David Toms.
Woods has been stuck on 14 major championships, four behind Jack Nicklaus’ all-time record, since 2008 when he won the U.S. Open at Torrey Pines.
“Being in this position, I like it,’’ Woods said of sharing the lead. “I know that it takes a bit out of us, but so be it. I’d much rather be there than missing cuts or just making the cut. So it’s a wonderful place to be with a chance to win your nation’s Open. I think I’m in a good spot.’’
Woods hit 11-of-14 fairways on a course that’s been yielding less than 50 percent to the entire field.
He also hit 14-of-18 greens, which are as hard as granite kitchen counters. The course is also yielding an average of less than 50 percent to the field in greens hit in regulation.
He should have hit at least one more green had it not been for poor luck. On No. 17, he hit a majestic 4-iron to the front of the green and it trundled tantalizingly off the green and down a shaved bank.
Woods’ game looks physically sound and mentally he is carrying a quiet, played-down confidence that tells you he feels something special could happen by week’s end.
“In this tournament you’re just plodding along,’’ Woods said. “This is a different tournament [than others]. You have to stay patient, you’ve got to stay present and you’re just playing for a lot of pars. This is not a tournament where we have to make a bunch of birdies. You’ve just got to just hang in there with a bunch of pars.’’
Woods’ playing partner for today’s third round, Furyk, is a plodding par-making machine who he respects a lot.
“I’ve always admired how he maneuvered his way around the golf course,’’ Woods said. “That’s one of the reasons why we were such great partners together in the Cups [Ryder and Presidents] is that we think alike. I just hit the ball further.
“But we maneuver ourselves around the golf course the same way. And I think that’s one of the reasons why we gelled so well.’’
Toms, a former PGA Championship winner, is similar to Furyk — steady and consistent. He, too, is an under-the-radar type of player, which he relishes.
“I’m sure they will be going crazy for Tiger out there this weekend and rightfully so,’’ Toms said. “He brings a lot to our game. To be able to be right there with him right now means I played pretty well. So I’m excited about it and I don’t mind flying under the radar at all. That’s kind of the way I’ve been my whole career and it’s not a bad way to go.’’
Toms said he “likes seeing’’ Woods’ name at the top of the leaderboard “because more people cover our sport, more people are out at the golf tournaments when he’s playing well.’’
“He seems to be having fun,’’ Toms said. “When I’m around him, when I see him on the range or see him around the golf course, the clubhouse, he seems in pretty good spirits, so that’s nice to see. It seems like the Tiger of old to me.’’
He’s the Tiger of old in a familiar place: In the lead at a major.