After two rounds, Tiger Woods is three over par at the 2013 U.S. Open's Merion Golf Club's East Course. Though the No. 1 player in the world has looked far from stellar, he's still in great position to win the tournament.
Merion has quickly begun to dry out after getting hammered by torrential rains this past week and the course is playing fast and brutally difficult.
While most of the field took a few steps backwards on Friday with rounds well over par, Woods maintained his position with an up-and-down, even-par second round.
Depending on how well (or poorly) Phil Mickelson and the afternoon groups play, Woods could be just a few shots off the lead heading into the weekend. Judging by the way he's been playing this year, he's going to be in contention on Sunday.
That said, it won't be easy and history is against Woods. According to ESPN Stats & Info, he has never won a major when posting a score over par in the first 36 holes:
Like everyone battling the East Course, one of the biggest keys for Woods this weekend will be hitting the tight fairways off the tee. As the course continues to dry out, this will become even more difficult than it has been thus far.
As you can see, Woods has taken advantage of the par fives this weekend thus far, but he is over par on the par threes and par fours. He will need to improve on these numbers in order to make a charge up the leaderboard this Saturday and Sunday.
Hitting fairways and greens is critical to winning, but most of all, the man who wins this weekend's major championship will need to be able to overcome adversity.
Even when players hit excellent shots off the tee, their balls don't always make it onto the fairway. Even when they hit gorgeous shots into the greens, they'll sometimes find themselves struggling to make par.
At one point on Friday, Woods hit a brilliant shot off the tee on No. 4. It looked perfect, but the ball caught the left-hand rough. It was literally just one foot from the fairway, but there's no intermediate rough at Merion.
Woods' next shot was a straight shank to the left—a shot he had no control over as his club's hosel was yanked by the shaggy rough.
This is where Woods' resilience and steady nerves saved him.
From the deep rough, hitting his third shot on the par five, Woods struck his best shot of the day, knocking the ball to within 15 feet. Of course, in typical Tiger style, he drained the birdie putt.
Woods has often talked about "grinding" when playing in major championships. He answered the question about what he loves in regards to majors in a recent interview with ESPN.co.uk:
The grind. The fight. The fact that you have to grind and stay in it. You're never out of it - you're just looking for a nice hot stretch out there, nine holes or so, maybe two nine-hole stretches where you really play well, and the rest of them you're just even keel.
Nobody does "the grind" on a consistent basis better than Woods and nobody is more confident in his ability to win, as noted by Kelly Tilghman of the Golf Channel:
He followed up his opening-round score of three over par with an even-par round of 70 on Friday, playing better as the course got tougher.
History is against him, but right now Woods is in great position—both from a mental perspective and on the scoreboard—to win the 2013 U.S. Open and finally put an end to his five-year major championship drought.
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