Tiger Woods may still prove to be too much to overcome, but at least Lee Westwood and Luke Donald are in a position to make a run at him.
Woods vaulted into contention at the US Open on Friday and is one stroke off the lead after a stirring performance on his final nine holes.
The world number one carded five birdies coming in, firing a five-under 30 on his final nine. At two-under 140, Woods is one shot behind Stuart Appleby with Westwood and Donald in close pursuit.
Westwood signed for an even-par 71 and is tied for fifth at one-under 141 while Donald also shot 71, his second even-par round of the tournament and is at 142 and tied for ninth.
Playing along with Appleby, Westwood managed three birdies and three bogeys on Friday. He was two-under after a birdie on 10 but dropped to even-par after a bogey on 15. He closed his round with a birdie at 18, as did Appleby, and Westwood credited his pairing with the Australian as an aid in his solid round.
“Absolutely, it is always easier when you can feed off each other,” Westwood said. “I get along really well with Stuart and Jerry Kelly so we have been very relaxed out there.”
Having finished no better than 33rd in his last four starts in the US Open, Westwood is in great position to improve upon his recent record in the event, as well as win his first major championship.
But he is careful not to get too far ahead of himself with 36-holes to play on a course that has shown the ability to take shots away as quickly if not more so than it is to yield birdies.
“Well there is a long way to go,” Westwood said. “We’re only half way through but I am only two shots off the lead and I have a better chance now that I had last year and in the last few years.”
Donald did his share of grinding on Friday.
He made the turn at two-under after birdies at numbers three and seven but his game left him for stretches on the back nine. He had three bogeys coming in with just one birdie, but limited the damage to remain in the hunt.
“I certainly didn’t play as well as I did the front side,” Donald said. “I played a little bit looser on the back side and missed a few drives to the right. Sometimes you are going to get those patches where you’re not quite in control of the ball and you have to grind out and make some good pars. And I did that pretty well on the back nine.”
As for the weekend, Donald expects that players will continue to find a tough set-up, but a fair one as well.
“I don’t think they will make it too much tougher with the pins,” he said. “I think that if they want to make it tougher, they will firm up the greens and make them a bit faster. That will make it very tricky.”