Gary Woodland drained a 50-foot birdie put at his final hole on Friday to cap a six-under par 65 and take a two-stroke US Open lead over former champion Justin Rose at Pebble Beach.
Woodland’s tee shot at his final hole, the par-four ninth, nestled in a divot in the fairway, but he still managed to reach the green in two to close out his round in sensational style.
“That was just a bonus,” Woodland said. “Hit a beautiful drive. I was in the divot, a pretty deep divot. We were a little indecisive what we were going to do. We tried to take a little less club and hit it hard and play out to the safe to the right and was nice to knock it in.”
Woodland was more pleased with a tough up and down for par at the eighth, where he sank a clutch 15-foot putt after chipping from the greenside rough.
“That was huge,” he said. “I played beautifully all day. I didn’t want to give a shot back.”
Woodland became just the third player to post a 65 in US Open play at Pebble Beach, a record set by Tiger Woods in 2000 and equalled by Rose on Thursday.
His 36-hole total of nine-under 133 is one shot better than Woods posted had in 2000, when he led by six on the way to a crushing 15-stroke triumph.
Woodland, a three-time winner on the PGA Tour who led last year’s PGA championship at the halfway stage on the way to his best major finish — a tie for sixth — has plenty of marquee names on his tail.
Rose, the 2013 US Open winner, fired a second-round 70 for 137. Former British Open winner Louis Oosthuizen of South Africa had seven birdies and six bogeys in a wild 70 for 136.
Four-time major winner Rory McIlroy and South African-born American Aaron Wise were a shot back on five-under 137, McIlroy with a 69 and Wise a 71.
Five players were tied at four-under, a group that included two-time defending US Open champion Brooks Koepka, who carded his second-straight 68. He was tied with Americans Chez Reavie, Chesson Hadley and Matt Kuchar and England’s Matt Wallace.
As Pebble Beach remained receptive in cool, overcast weather, 15-time major champion Woods was unable to take advantage.
The US superstar stumbled to a bogey-bogey finish in a one-over par 72 that left him even four the tournament.
“Not a very good finish,” Woods said shortly, admitting he was “still a little hot” shortly after signing his scorecard.
Although birdies were still plentiful, Pebble Beach proved it could still bite.
McIlroy was flying at six-under for the tournament when he found himself unable to get up and down for par from a greenside bunker at 13. He then took a double-bogey seven at the par-five 14th.
McIlroy, coming off a seven-stroke romp at the Canadian Open, responded with back-to-back birdies.
“Those birdies on 15 and 16 felt huge to get me back in this tournament for the weekend,” he said. “I need to keep it going. Fairways, greens: It sounds boring and cliched but that’s what you need to do round here. The course is only going to get tougher.” (Agence France-Presse)