SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Maybe all Michael Thompson needs to do to stay in front in the U.S. Open is stay out of trouble.
Same for Tiger Woods.
The Olympic Club clobbered so many of golf’s best players again Friday, keeping most of them over par and in the rough. Jim Furyk shot a 1-under 69 to move to 1 under for the tournament for the 36-hole clubhouse lead.
Thompson had a 4-under 66 in a sensational opening round, leaving him three strokes ahead of Woods and David Toms. When all three teed off in the afternoon, not even one other player in the clubhouse was at par.
“I kind of collected myself and plodded away,” said Furyk, the 2003 U.S. Open champion at Olympia Fields outside Chicago. “I think the way the golf course is set up that’s pretty much what you need to do.”
Top-ranked Luke Donald and defending champion Rory McIlroy were likely going to miss the cut in what would be swift and stunning exits.
Donald came to the U.S. Open with six wins in the past 18 months, more than any other player. Last year, the 34-year-old Englishman pulled off an unprecedented feat by topping the money lists on both the PGA and European tours.
Now he’ll probably miss the weekend for the third time in nine U.S. Open starts.
Donald followed his birdie-free 79 — which even 14-year-old qualifier Andy Zhang matched Thursday — with a less erratic second round. He had five bogeys and three birdies to card a 72, leaving him at an eye-popping 11 under and still without a major.
“That’s the one part of my golfing resume in the last few years, especially, that I need to continually address and continually improve,” Donald said. “I want to win one more than any of you guys know.”
McIlroy’s slide might be even more startling.
He mixed five bogeys — including one on his final hole — with a pair of birdies for a second-round 73. The 23-year-old from Northern Ireland shattered U.S. Open records last June at rain-softened Congressional, finishing at 268 to break the 72-hole record by four shots, and his 16-under total was four better than Woods’ mark at Pebble Beach in 2000.
What a pushover that course turned out to be.
Olympic Club has restored “golf’s toughest test” and then some.
The tight, twisting fairways on the unleveled Lake Course had most of the field hacking out of rough and digging into sand for shots. Others searched for balls in the colossal cypress trees or pushed putts all over the rock-hard greens. Phil Mickelson did all three in his first round.
Sergio Garcia, who reached the green in two on the 11th, was so upset when he missed a 5-foot putt to make bogey that he took a half-swing at the ball and yelled a couple of cuss words.
The two accomplished left-handers in Woods’ group, Mickelson and Masters champion Bubba Watson also faced the prospect of missing the cut entering the second round. Mickelson opened with a 76, and Watson shot 78.
At least they still had a round to play.
Calm and cool conditions under a light layer of fog provided a majestic backdrop of San Francisco’s steep hills when the first groups teed off shortly after 7 a.m. A blue sky and warmer — but still crisp — temperatures followed, speeding those already fast and fickle fairways.
It could be the last time most players enjoy the serene setting.
The U.S. Golf Association decided this year to eliminate the 10-shot rule in which players within 10 strokes of the lead make the cut. Starting at this year’s championship, the cut will be the top 60 and ties.
The cut line started was at 5 over or better when the first morning groups finished. In all likelihood, it will be at least 7 over.
USGA executive director Mike Davis said the idea behind the new rule was to limit the number of players making the cut — 108 did so Oakland Hills in 1996 — and prevent slow play that could perhaps force a two-tee start in threesomes.
Not that Woods will need to worry about that.
Woods was in control in the first round, finding fairways, sticking greens and avoiding the thick rough and towering trees that line the course built on the side of a hill that separates the Pacific Ocean from Lake Merced. He had consecutive birdies late in his round, including a 35-foot putt that banged into the back of the cup on No. 5.
Thompson, who is 27 and in his first U.S. Open as a pro, made seven birdies. He was runner-up in the 2007 U.S. Amateur, which just so happed to be at Olympic Club.
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