Weather, Woods keep U.S. Open field at bay

Tiger's 9-under leads

2nd round incomplete

June 17, 2000|By Don Markus | Don Markus,SUN STAFF

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. --When asked years ago about the weather here, Bing Crosby said, "We sure get a lot of it."

Through nearly two rounds of the 100th U.S. Open at the Pebble Beach Golf Links, Crosby's line still works. There has been every-thing from brilliant sunshine to soupy fog, from dead calm to devilish winds.

It has, much to the delight of the U.S. Golf Association, made a course that played soft and easy for many in Thursday's opening round turn fast and hard for the fog-delayed second round yester-day. It has, much to the advantage of Tiger Woods, made it more difficult for others in contention to catch up with the first-round leader and world's best player.

"Who knows?" Nick Faldo surmised yesterday afternoon as the winds began to die with Woods getting ready to tee off, about 3 1/2 hours later than scheduled. "Tiger might shoot a comfortable 4-under and lead by 10."

By the time the Open ends, Faldo's line might come true. Starting out with a one-shot lead after a record-breaking 6-under par 65 -- the lowest score for any of the four Opens played here -- Woods built on his lead last night.

Despite making his first bogey of the tournament, Woods was at 3-under par through 12 holes and 9-under for the tournament. Woods was on the 12th green when play was called at 8:15 p.m. PDT. He chose to putt out and made a 30-foot birdie to finish the day.

That gave him a three-shot lead on Manuel Angel Jimenez of Spain, who was at 1-under for the day and 6-under for the tournament through seven holes yesterday. Two others -- Thomas Bjorn of Denmark and Angel Cabrera of Argentina -- were seven shots behind. Bjorn was 1-under through 16 holes and Cabrera was even through nine.

Asked if he thought this year's Open was starting to remind him of the 1997 Masters, which he led by three shots after two rounds and won by a record 12 strokes, Woods said, "Not at all. There's a long way to go. We're not even finished with two rounds. This is a golf course that's a lot more demanding than Augusta was."

Among those who finished 36 holes, Kirk Triplett was the proverbial clubhouse leader at 1-under 141 after a wild round of even-par 71 that included four birdies and a bogey on the front nine and two double bogeys and a birdie on the back.

"Golf is not that strenuous of an activity," said Triplett, whose round also included a 35-minute delay while he called in two USGA officials, both of whom disagreed that he should get a drop from what he called a "mole hole" in the rough off the 13th fairway. "I don't think it's easy out there right now."

It wasn't, at least for most.

"It was hard work," three-time British and Masters champion Nick Faldo, on the leader board briefly before a 3-over 74 left him at 1-over 143, said in summing up the feelings of many who were forced out of bed at dark and didn't leave the course until late afternoon at the earliest. "I was up at 4 [a.m.] and I was out in position at 6:45. Then they came back again."

Yesterday's start to conclude Thursday's fog-postponed round was delayed 90 minutes, to 8:15 a.m. Woods, who was scheduled to tee off his second round at a little past 1 p.m., didn't start until 4:40 p.m.

The fog that swept in Thursday afternoon and played havoc witb the opening round -- leaving 75 golfers with incomplete scorecards -- stuck around until midmorning yesterday.

Then, along with the sun came the wind, drying out greens, blowing up scores and turning what had the makings of an early-sum-mer version of the Pebble Beach AT&T into the Open.

There were no double eagles to start the round, as happened when Hal Sutton holed out from the first fairway on Thursday. Yesterday, John Huston triple bogeyed the second hole to fall from 4-under to 1-under.

"I didn't play very well, but there really wasn't a whole lot I could do about No. 2" said Huston, whose round of 4-over 75 also featured five birdies, four bogeys and a double bogey. "It was just one of those spots you get into at the U.S. Open."

There were no record-breaking rounds overall, at least not yet. In fact, fewer than a handful were under par.

Of the first 99 players to finish yesterday, only four were under par. The best score was a 2-under 69, shot first by Joe Daley and later by reigning Senior Open champion Dave Eichelberger. Daley, a 39-year-old now on the Buy.corn Tour, was 14 shots better than he was Thursday, while Eichelberger is now at 5-over 147.

By the time Woods teed off yesterday afternoon, the winds had calmed and the air was damp, softening the greens just abit. It might not have not mattered, the way Woods is playing.

After making pars on the first two holes, Woods rolled in a 20-footer for birdie on the par-4 third hole to go 7-under. After another par, Woods made his first bogey by failing to get up and down from the bunker on the par-3 fifth.

Woods followed that with two straight birdies to reach 8-under, but then made another bogey on the par-4 ninth when he left both his approach to the green and his pitch to the cup short, missing a 10-footer for par. But he came back with birdies on the llth and 12th holes to stretch his lead to three over Jimenez.

Someone asked Huston about the forecast of more fog, more sun and, of course, more Tiger.

"It's going to be very difficult flit stays," he said. "You know, the greens got very hard and there's probably only one guy I can think of who can stop it on the greens right now."

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