Once again in a Major Championship, World Number One Tiger Woods set the standard the rest of the field had to try and attain as the second round of the 102nd US Open Championship unfolded at Bethpage State Park in Farmingdale, New York.
As if the 7214 yard par 70 Black Course, the longest in US Open Championship history was not hard enough, the early stages of the second round were contested in driving rain, making the brutal course play every yard of its daunting length.
With the main European Tour challengers Sergio Garcia and Padraig Harrington, who carded 68 and 70 respectively in the first round, not starting their second rounds until later in the day, the stage was left clear for Woods to try and post a clubhouse target.
The 26 year old American, looking for the second leg of the Grand Slam after having won the Masters Tournament at Augusta National in April, did just that with a stunning 68 to add to his opening 67 for a five under par total of 135. Woods used all his ability, strength and mental toughness to give the real belief that his would be the only under par total come the end of the day’s play.
Woods, starting his second round at the first hole, began with all guns blazing with birdies at three of the first four to open up a four shot lead on Garcia who was still warming up on the range.
It rekindled memories of the 100th US Open Championship at Pebble Beach two years ago when Woods stretched away from the field to win by a record 15 shots. But Bethpage proved to a stiffer examination and Woods bogeyed the eighth and tenth to fall back closer to the pack.
Showing admirable concentration, Woods failed to shed another shot in the tough closing stages, although he had to use his powers of recovery at both the 15th and 17th to make par after missing the green with his approach shot, very nearly pitching in for birdie at the latter to the delight of the huge galleries who braved the downpours to turn out once again in their thousands.
Once again however, the World Number One saved the best for last and, just as in the first round, rolled in a 12 footer for birdie on the last to stamp his authority on the tournament.
Of The European Tour Members to have finished their second rounds, one of the best performances came from six time Major winner Nick Faldo, who battled bravely to a 76 after double bogeying his opening hole for a six over par total of 146, a total matched by Angel Cabrera (73) and Jean Van de Velde (75).
“It was just an unbelievable day out there,” said Faldo. “We were out for five hours 20 minutes and I’m just whacked. It is just a day to do as best as you can, take what score you can and then move on to the next hole.
“The course is not unfair, it is just brutally long. They (the USGA) took the course to the max but then they have had bad weather on top of that which has made it incredibly difficult. But what can you do, you just keep trying but at times you need to be superhuman, and there is only one player like that in the field.”
While Faldo lived to fight again over the weekend, the same could not be said for defending champion Retief Goosen. The 2001 Volvo Order of Merit winner struggled along with the majority of the field and rounds of 79-75 for a 14 over par total of 154 saw the South African pack his bags for home.