Woods climbs into the hunt at Congressional

Associated Press + More

By DOUG FERGUSON, Associated Press

BETHESDA, Md. (AP) — Tiger Woods had the round he needed on a steamy day at Congressional. Robert Garrigus had the round he has come to expect.

As the temperature climbed toward 100 degrees Friday in the AT&T National, Garrigus kept pounding tee shots and making birdies until he finished with a 4-under 67, giving him a share of the lead with Jimmy Walker and Brendon De Jonge among the early starters.

Garrigus wasn't the least bit surprised. It was his sixth consecutive round under par at Congressional, dating to his week at the U.S. Open last year when he became a footnote in history as only the fourth American to break par all four rounds in a U.S. Open.

"I feel like this is my kind of course," he said.

Walker and De Jonge each had a 69 to join Garrigus at 5-under 137. Pat Perez (69), Rod Pampling (67) and S.Y. Noh (68) were another shot behind.

Woods got back into the mix with a 68, which included a 50-foot eagle putt on the 16th hole and a couple of pars that were equally important. Woods was in trouble early after a few tee shots were caught in the dense rough that makes Congressional feel like a U.S. Open and forced him to hack out short of the green. Both times, he hit wedges that landed by the hole, bounced 15 feet by and caught the slope to come back within 3 feet.

"The pars at 14 and 15 were something I needed to have happen," Woods said. "I hit two good wedge shots in there after two poor drives and gave myself a couple good looks, made those, and then I rewarded all that hard work at the next hole with eagle."

Woods was three shots out of the lead, and not likely to fall too far behind. The course, already looking like it was supposed to play last year for the U.S. Open, was getting firm and crusty from the scorching heat. Towels were used to wipe sweaty faces more than to clean irons. Tim Herron was on the putting green, ready to tee off in the afternoon, when he asked, "Anyone pass out?"

It was the kind of day reminiscent of when Ken Venturi won the 1964 U.S. Open at Congressional, so dehydrated he almost didn't finish. And high heat was expected well into the weekend, making this a test of survival.

But there were birdies available, with some pins tucked behind slopes to feed the ball close to the hole. Woods used the slope to escape with easy pars on the 14th and 15th, and to set up a tap-in birdie on the eighth near the end of his round.

Garrigus went the conventional route — at least for him.

After finishing his opening round Thursday evening, which he described in ho-hum fashion as "just another round under par here," he couldn't help but mention that with the heat, the ball is traveling far.

"Maybe for you," Jim Furyk said as he walked by and heard what Garrigus said.

Garrigus took advantage of a forward tee on the 12th hole to stuff his approach inside 4 feet, and then he really let his length work to his advantage toward the end of the back nine. He belted a 348-yard tee shot beyond the bunkers on the par-5 16th that left him only a 6-iron into the green. And on the 18th, with the tees move up to 481 yards, he hit a drive so far along the downhill fairway that he had only a lob wedge left. He spun that back to a few feet.

He closed out his round on the par-5 ninth, which played 597 yards. He hit 7-wood for his second shot just short of the green to set up an easy birdie.

Woods was hopeful of making up more ground on that hole, except that he had a downhill lie in the first cut of rough. His goal was to hit a 4-iron to the apron and have it scoot up to the green, but he pulled into the rough in the valley and couldn't get his chip close enough for a reasonable shot at birdie.

Garrigus couldn't complain about his position.

"It's just a share of the lead on Friday, but it's a good spot to be in," he said. "It's better than missing the cut."

No need for him to worry about that around this place.

Garrigus was rightfully proud when he mentioned Thursday evening that he was only the fourth American with four sub-par rounds in the U.S. Open. The others were Lee Trevino at Oak Hill in 1968, Lee Janzen at Baltusrol in 1993 and Curtis Strange at Oakmont in 1994. Strange and Garrigus are the only ones in that group who didn't win.

Even going back to previous AT&T National events at Congressional, Garrigus has quite a record — this was his 18th round, and he has only been over par three times.

"Everything about this course fits my eye," he said. "If I'm playing well and swinging it good, I feel like I can hit every fairway, just the way everything sets up. They give you perfect targets. There's stuff to aim at. That's what I love."

Length never hurts, but it helps to cope with the heat. Perez, who grew up in San Diego, was asked five questions after his second straight round of 69. Three of those answers included the words, "It's hot."

The biggest tease of the day was the sound of a sprinkler — not on the course, but in a backyard next to the 14th green.

Woods doesn't mind the heat, especially living in south Florida. He compared Friday with the PGA Championship he won in 2007 at Southern Hills in Tulsa, Okla., when the temperature reached triple figures before breakfast could be digested.

"I've played some good tournaments over the year, in Malaysia and other places, where it's hot," he said. "Certainly fitness, running all those miles and lifting all those weights, it comes into play when you get days like this, and consecutive days like this."

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.