ARDMORE, Pa. — One by one, red numbers disappeared from the leaderboard at the U.S. Open, leaving Phil Mickelson alone at the top, waiting to take his turn.
Mickelson’s 3-under 67 remained the standard when the first round was completed Friday morning, and the nasty rough and hard-to-read greens at Merion Golf Club took an even bigger bite once the second round was under way.
Besides Lefty, the only player under par at one point was Belgium’s Nicolas Colsaerts, who, like Mickelson, had a late tee time after shooting 69 on Thursday. Mickelson 3-putted the first hole of his second round to drop to 2 under, cutting his lead to one stroke.
The trio combined to shoot 14 over at the halfway mark. Woods‘ ailing left elbow flared up again, and he hit a chip from just off the green that traveled barely a foot while making bogey at the par-4 7th.
Woods then dropped his left hand off the club and shook his wrist while putting his tee shot wide of the fairway at No. 8, just as he had done several times on Thursday. The arm clearly bothered him again on the next shot, which he put in the rough near the green. He saved par on the hole and finished a second-round 70 that left him at 3 over for the tournament, still in contention if he can stay healthy.
“It’s hard with the wind and the pin locations,” Woods said. “They’re really tough. … We didn’t think they were going to be as severe as they are.”
Woods was tight-lipped about his elbow, saying only that it first bothered him at the Players Championship five weeks ago. Asked what he felt, he answered: “Pain.”
Masters champion Scott fell apart quickly, all but quashing any hope for a Grand Slam. He was 3 under when first-round play was suspended Thursday, but he hit a hard-luck Merion shot at No. 12: an approach that landed just short of the pin, spun backward and rolled some 75 feet to the edge of the fairway rough. He also put a tee shot out of bounds at No. 14 to complete a first-round 72, then came back after the short turnaround to post a 76 to sit at 8 over through two rounds.
McIlroy had quite the adventure, putting his drive at No. 4 onto the No. 8 fairway. Once he got back to the correct hole, he put a shot in a bunker and bogeyed the par 5. His second-round 70 left him at 3 over.
“I’m very happy. Right in there for the weekend,” McIlroy said. “I don’t think I’ll be too far away by the end of the day.”
Then there was Luke Donald, who actually pulled ahead of Mickelson at 4 under with back-to-back birdies, including a chip-in at the par-3 13th during his second round. But Merion took him apart on the front nine when he bogeyed four consecutive holes, turning his number from red to black. His second-round 72 left him at even-par.
“I think everyone thought that as soon as the course got wet it was going to play easy,” Donald said between his rounds. “The scores certainly aren’t showing that. The tough holes are extremely tough.”
Coming into the Open, the question was how Merion would fare against a modern-day championship field. It last hosted this event in 1981, with the thinking that today’s golfers had outgrown the course.