/ 14 June 2008

Appleby takes lead at US Open

Stuart Appleby rolled in a 40-foot birdie putt at the last to seize the second round lead at the US Open on Friday, while Tiger Woods enjoyed a closing birdie binge to end the day a shot adrift at Torrey Pines.

Australian Appleby overcame back-to-back bogeys at 11 and 12 to post a 70 for a three-under-par 139 total.

”The bomb at 18 was a sweet taste at the end,” Appleby, seeking his first major title, told reporters.

Woods joined fellow-American Rocco Mediate and Sweden’s Robert Karlsson at two under with a spectacular charge after an opening nine that included four bogeys and an eagle.

”I made some putts,” said the world number one, who had five birdies over the last nine holes for a three-under 68.

”They weren’t exactly tap-ins.”

Woods, playing his first tournament in eight weeks since having surgery on his left knee, made three 20-footers and a curving 15-footer for birdies in his first five holes after the turn.

He capped off the charge with a birdie at the ninth, his last hole of the round.

”I’m a little sore right now, but I’ll be good to go tomorrow,” said Woods, who was seven shots behind then-leader Mediate when he turned for home.

One more shot off the pace at one under par were Spaniard Miguel Angel Jimenez, who fired a 66, Briton Lee Westwood (71), and Americans Davis Love III (69) and D.J. Trahan (69).

Like Mediate, Karlsson, Westwood and Trahan, Jimenez is also aiming for his first major championship victory.

”It’s very important,” the Spaniard said. ”This is my 26th year on the tour, and I’m 44. I would love to have one for my career.”

Eighty players made the cut, set at seven-over-par 149.

Among those eliminated from weekend play were Briton Justin Rose (79-72) and K.J. Choi of South Korea (74-77) on 151, holder Angel Cabrera of Argentina (79-76) on 155, and Briton Colin Montgomerie at 156 (79-77).

Mediate, who began the day at two under par, took his total to four-under par after four holes, good for a three-shot lead over the field. However, he bogeyed the 10th and 12th to come back to the pack.

”I played as good a front nine as I could play,” Mediate said. ”I missed a few on the back nine and I had to pay.”

Unheralded overnight leaders Kevin Streelman and fellow-American Justin Hicks, who shot opening 68s, tumbled off the leaderboard. Streelman shot 77 and Hicks 80.

Woods, who started at the 10th, began his surge with an unlikely birdie at number one after a wayward tee shot settled across the cart path near a tree and garbage bin on the far right side.

Standing on the cart path, he rifled his approach onto the green ”pin high” and sank the 20-foot putt for a birdie that drew roars from the gallery and the return of his familiar fist pump.

That was the first of five successive threes that Woods put on his scorecard, representing four birdies in five holes.

Appleby said winning the title with Woods in the hunt of a 14th major title was a big challenge.

”It’s just a matter of going playing golf,” the Australian said. ”He wants to go play golf, we want to go play golf.

”And I’ll be doing my best to accidentally throw a club towards his sore knee,” he said to laughter in the interview room. ”It would be an accident, of course.” – Reuters