Tiger Woods is known for his legendary ability to grind and often score better than he should with clutch play, and that was no exception in Friday's action at the 2013 U.S. Open.
The top-ranked player in the world had to deal with a nagging left elbow injury while completing his first round in the morning due to the prior day's two rain delays. Woods went plus-one on his final eight holes to card a 73 in Round 1 and then turned around to gut through an even-par 70 at Merion Golf Club in Ardmore, Pa., which put him at three over par overall through 36 holes.
Woods is still well within striking distance of joint leaders Billy Horschel and Phil Mickelson, as he sits just four strokes off their one-under pace.
As his first round wound down, Woods was favoring his left arm, which prompted Golf Digest's Ashley Mayo to remind viewers what he said about it after Thursday:
Kelly Tilghman of Golf Channel revealed what Woods did to combat yet another health issue, through her colleague and Woods' former Stanford college teammate Notah Begay:
Woods did flash brilliance in playing alongside Rory McIlroy and Adam Scott, but he struggled with putting at the outset—a recent development that hadn't occurred until Woods' last start at the Memorial.
Shane Bacon of Yahoo! noticed this discouraging trend early on, implying that the true problem wasn't the long game and the physical torment it caused Woods:
However, Golf Channel's Rex Hoggard noted that the powers that be made the greens slower for the second round, and that foreshadowed improvement for Woods with the flatstick:
It also helps Woods when he doesn't necessarily have to putt, which was the case when he stuffed this approach to the par-five second hole:
Whatever pain Woods suffered in his arm was especially tested at the par-five fourth, where he stood in Merion's heavy rough facing a long approach shot. As he has many times in the past, the 14-time major winner rose to the occasion:
Dominance on par-fives has always been a cornerstone of Woods' success, and converting those two opportunities proved to be critical.
NBC's Johnny Miller pointed out that Woods has had trouble holing clutch putts in majors lately, though he has gotten it done in regular PGA Tour events in winning four times already in 2013.
That trend also began to reverse, as Woods drained several key saves to keep the round going, including a lengthy bogey conversion after two poor chips. He followed that up with a 12-foot save at the next hole.
Justin Ray of ESPN suggested that Woods may be against the odds to grab his first major trophy in five years based on his opening round alone:
But there is still plenty of golf to play, and while Woods may be hampered by a bum elbow, in his typical style, he's refusing to make any excuses and keeping himself in the hunt for his first major title since the 2008 U.S. Open.
Jason Sobel alluded to that in his humorous piece of commentary, when Woods won with multiple difficult injuries:
For the second round, Woods hit just 11 of 18 greens but found 10 out of 14 fairways. If he continues to find the short grass, sharpens up his iron play and drains putts as he did on Friday, he'll be a force to be reckoned with on the weekend.
Bacon was singing quite a different tune by the end of this latest showcase of Woods' uncommon resilience:
With the way this tournament is shaping up, and with the leading score hovering close to even par, it's difficult to count Woods out after this sporadic but inspired and mostly successful effort.