Spain’s Sergio Garcia heads into the third round of the 101st US Open just two shots off the lead and in excellent shape to mount a serious challenge to become the first European winner of this championship since England’s Tony Jacklin at Hazeltine in 1970.
Garcia, 21, who won for the first time in America at the recent MasterCard Colonial tournament in Texas, produced two opening rounds of 70 and 68 over the treacherous Southern Hills course for a two round aggregate of two under par 138.
The Spaniard is tied with America’s Stewart Cink, two shots behind halfway leaders, South Africa’s Retief Goosen and Americans, Mark Brooks and J.L. Lewis but ahead of a strong American quartet, comprising David Duval, Phil Mickelson, Rocco Mediate and Matt Gogel, who all finished the delayed second round in a share of sixth place on one under par 139.
Pre-championship favourite, Tiger Woods, the man who is endeavouring to win his fifth successive major title, not to mention secure his sixth victory in his last seven starts, added a 71 to his opening 74 and goes into the third round eight shots behind the leaders.
That is a considerable deficit but two shots less than the margin he made up while winning the recent Deutsche Bank SAP Open TPC of Europe and three fewer than the 11 shot halfway deficit Lou Graham overcame while winning the 1975 US Open at Medinah.
“There’s a long way to go but I’ve got to admit that I feel pretty good about the way that I’ve played,” said Garcia who completed his second round in near darkness at about 9.45 pm.
“All I can do now is do the best I can do and then wait and see what happens. I’m not going to worry about it too much. I know I am playing well and I’d like to think that I can win if I can keep it going.”
Garcia goes out in the third round’s penultimate group alongside American, J.L Lewis, one pair ahead of Goosen, who is out in the company of former USPGA champion, Mark Brooks, but the Spaniard and the South African are by no means the only European Tour members to could still play a significant role in this championship.
Altogether, a total of 17 European Tour members have survived the cut, which fell at six over par 146, and five of them occupy places within the top-20.
Beneath Goosen and Garcia, the rejuvenated Colin Montgomerie, who seems no longer to be quite so much at odds with his putter as he has been for much of the last month, returned steady rounds of 71 and 70 to share 11th place with Denmark’s Thomas Björn (72-69) and Argentina’s Angel Cabrera (70-71) and Sweden’s Mathias Grönberg, Argentina’s José Coceres and Ireland’s Padraig Harrington were all tied in a share of 23rd place on three over par 143.
The other European Tour members to survive the cut were Vijay Singh, Bernhard Langer and Ernie Els (all 144), Peter Lonard and Darren Clarke (145) and Eduardo Romero, Gabriel Hjertstedt, Nick Faldo and Gary Orr, who scraped in with nothing to spare on 146.
Unfortunately, however, there was less good news for José Maria Olazábal (77-72), Paul Lawrie (73-77), Miguel Angel Jiménez (77-73) and Lee Westwood (75-76) who all missed out.
Earlier, Philip Price and Pierre Fulke, had withdrawn on health grounds, suffering from a stomach bug and flu, respectively and they were joined by Sweden’s Jarmo Sandelin who withdrew from the championship at 9.00 pm last night, choosing not to return this morning for the completion of his second round. He had played 15 holes in the second round and was ten over par when he made the decision.