Pebble Beach, Calif. -
On another frustrating day at Pebble Beach, Tiger Woods fought with his swing as much as the greens. Graeme McDowell, on the other hand, had that all figured out and gave Woods a distant target to shoot at for the weekend.
McDowell made six birdies on the way to a 3-under 68 on Friday and enters the weekend at 3 under. That was two shots ahead of Dustin Johnson, 18-year-old Ryo Ishikawa and Ernie Els, who also shot 68 to position himself for a run at his third U.S. Open title.
Mike Weir of Bright's Grove, Ont., who began the day tied for second, was plummeting down the leaderboard Friday, at 6 over through 10 holes.
Finishing the second round at even par was the quartet of Alex Cejka, who shot 72, Paul Casey (73), Brendon de Jonge (73) and Jerry Kelly (70).
Meanwhile, playing in the afternoon, Phil Mickelson ran off a string of four straight birdies to get to even par through seven holes.
Players returned to Pebble for a second round played under cloudy, cool and more benign conditions than on Thursday, when sunny skies and drying winds had Woods calling the greens "awful" after a birdie-less round of 74.
Opening on the back nine Friday, he chipped in on No. 11 for his first birdie of the tournament, but if things were looking up, it was only for a brief while. He bogeyed both the par-3s on the back, missed an eight-foot putt for birdie on No. 18, blocked a tee shot into a bunker on No. 2 and hooked one into the fescue on No. 3.
It added up to a 1-over 72 and a slide down the leaderboard - seven shots behind McDowell. Woods, of course, feels he's still got a chance.
"I just need to keep progressing and keep moving my way up the board," he said. "It's a long haul. The U.S. Open is not going to get easier as the week goes on, especially on the weekend."
Anything is possible with Woods, but clearly this is not the same player who won the last U.S. Open at Pebble, back in 2000, by a record 15 shots.
After opening the tournament by hitting 10 straight greens in regulation, Woods got wild. Since that start, he has gone 13 for 26, and though the greens were better during a morning round Friday than they were Thursday afternoon, he missed a series of makable putts.