Tiger Woods has had his share of struggles through two rounds, but he's in contention to win his 15th major championship this weekend at the 2013 U.S. Open.
Merion Golf Club's East Course is shaping up to be a tough test.
Despite the fact that the course was hit with torrential rain the week leading up to the tournament—including rain on Thursday that caused two delays and saw many players finish their first round on Friday—the greens and fairways are playing fast and tight.
By Sunday afternoon, we're sure to see many shots that look fantastic initially to turn into nightmares.
Merion's tight fairways feature sloping angles that can often cause well-struck balls to end up lost in the shaggy rough. The course's tiny greens feature drastic undulations and difficult pins—missing on the wrong side of the hole by even an inch can result in disaster.
At the conclusion of Friday's action, Woods was just four shots off the lead at three over par.
At the end of the day, only two players had finished their second round under par, which puts Woods' round of even-par 70 into excellent perspective. Even though he began the week with a subpar round of 73, Woods is in excellent shape to win on Sunday.
What He's Done Thus Far
To this point in the tournament, Woods has struggled on par threes and par fours while scoring well on the par fives. Unfortunately for him, the East Course at Merion only features two par fives—No. 2 and No. 4.
Woods hasn't been consistent off the tees, hitting 71.43 percent of fairways in regulation. Normally, this is a good number for Tiger, but given the unforgiving nature of Merion's rough, it's not good enough.
Far too often, Woods has found himself behind the eight ball, which has caused him to scramble for par more often than he'd like. Through two rounds, he's hitting greens just 63.89 percent of the time. As a way of comparison, the top players in the field are well above 80 percent.
It's no accident that second-round leader Billy Horschel leads the field in this category, hitting 86.11 percent of greens in regulation. Granted, Woods is playing well compared to the field, but he can still make huge strides in the next couple of days to improve.
Woods was much improved from Thursday to Friday with his consistency. He logged six bogeys in Round 1 and then cut that number in half in the second round—the difference between three over par and even par.
In order to continue improving over the weekend, Woods must obviously improve his percentage off the tees. He hasn't been great on par threes and has gotten into trouble off the tee on longer holes, putting himself in a bad situation from the get go.
History is against Woods winning the U.S. Open. Woods has never won a major after shooting over par in the first 36 holes, as ESPN Stats & Info pointed out:
History was made to be broken, however, and Woods has as good a chance as any player in the field to win this tournament. His even-par 70 on Friday was one of the best rounds in the field, and his improvement from Thursday to Friday is compelling evidence that he's going to finish strong.
Woods is playing with confidence, and he's feeling good about his chances to win the tournament, as noted by Kelly Tilghman of the Golf Channel:
Round 3 Prediction
Woods will continue playing well.
He cut his bogeys in half from the first round to the second, and he's been in position to make birdie on a number of occasions only to miss putts.
One of Woods' biggest struggles on Thursday was his feel for the greens. He seems to have gotten more comfortable with the speed of the greens, and as the course dries out this weekend it will play into his hands as one of the world's best putters.
Prediction: Woods will at worst shoot even par. Should he dial in his approach shots and get on a hot streak, he's capable of going much lower.
Note: Stats courtesy of USOpen.com
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