Sunday 4 December 2016

Sparkling Spieth eyes second Major as Tiger can find no way to escape torture Chambers

James Corrigan

Published 20/06/2015 | 02:30

Darren Clarke takes a breather during a disastrous second round 80 at Chambers Bay.
Darren Clarke takes a breather during a disastrous second round 80 at Chambers Bay.
Jordan Spieth found the going a lot easier
Jason Day is tended to by caddie Colin Swatton after collapsing due to dizziness. The Australian was able to finish out his round

As Tiger Woods was careering inexorably towards an early exit at the 115th US Open, so Jordan Spieth was setting up a shot at history. The old and the new, the past and the future. . . it was as obvious as it was irresistible.

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In truth, Woods was so much better than his opening 80, his worst round in 20 years of playing the US Open. But after following up with a 76 for a 16-over-par two-round total, the end could not come soon enough last night.

In complete contrast, Spieth was in the group ahead, marching into a weekend in which he could achieve something that not even the young Woods could manage. If Spieth can follow up his Masters glory two months ago he will become the first player to win two Majors before the age of 22 since Gene Sarazen 93 years ago.

Only five players have ever won the Masters and US Open in the same season - Craig Wood, Ben Hogan, Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and Woods. These are the calibre of name beckoning Spieth, the remarkable young Texan.

And all these legends, and more, would have felt blessed to have a putting motion like that of Spieth, who was 21 shots better than Woods and top of the leaderboard on five-under par when the agony ended for Tiger last night.

Opening on the 10th, Spieth calmly rolled in a 10-footer for a birdie. Another birdie on the 14th was followed by a 20-footer on the 15th and again on the 17th.

Chambers Bay bit back on the 18th when he was overheard to say "dumbest hole I've ever played in my life" when he went from the bunker into fescue back into bunker on his way to a double-bogey. But on the first he converted a 25-footer.

His upward progress continued into his back nine with a birdie on 10 before the only blemish on that stretch came with a dropped shot at his 16th.

However, this was quickly redeemed as Spieth birdied his last, the ninth, while playing partner Jason Day recovered after collapsing from a dizzy spell, for a 67 to match the first-round pacesetters, Dustin Johnson and Henrik Stenson, who were afternoon starters.

Playing alongside Spieth, Day's eventful day saw him make a ridiculous par save on the first (his 10th).

Flopped

Having missed the green in three, he was down a bank and looking at a double-bogey. But he flopped it up and so it dropped, bringing an ecstatic response from the fans. Day threw his wedge in the air in celebration.

Despite his collapse, the Australian signed for a 70 and a two-under total which keeps him well in the mix for an overdue first Major.

Justin Rose was the other member of the three-ball. A nasty triple-bogey seven on the treacherous seventh followed by a birdie on nine plunged him back to two-over at the halfway point and inside the predicted cut of three-over par.

Lee Westwood joins Rose on two-over after a fighting 69, while compatriot Paul Casey (69) is a shot better on one-over.

Another Englishman Ian Poulter battled hard to make the cut but a double-bogey on the sixth derailed his brave challenge and he finished with a 72 for five-over and unlikely to make it through to the weekend.

But at least Poulter had a sniff; that was infinitely more than Woods, who simply had to go through the motions and try to drag out whatever positives he could muster.

On his first hole (the 10th), Woods pulled his approach into the bank and as he tried to work out how to extricate himself from the cabbage, he lost his footing and slipped over.

He landed on his backside and so the analogies rang out. Woods made bogey, but it was not to descend into the chaos which characterised Thursday.

The player ranked 195th in the world birdied the drivable par-four 12th which a fine bunker shot to a few feet, but the usual errant drives on the 14th, 18th and third cost him bogeys.

In fairness, Chambers Bay is anything but easy. There were some horror shows. Darren Clarke finished a shot worse than Woods on 17-over after an 80, which began with a triple-bogey seven on the 10th.

Chambers Bay will only get harder and the awful greens will only deteriorate.

Those who are off the game are much better off away and this plainly includes Woods.

Uncomfortable

So where next for the 39-year-old? The answer is West Virginia for the Greenbrier Classic back on the PGA Tour in two weeks.

Then there is the Open Championship at St Andrews, his favourite course where he won the Claret Jug in 2000 and 2005 by the combined total of 13 shots.

Where will he be then? Butch Harmon, the coach under whom he won eight of his 14 Majors, merely hopes that the viewing at the Home of Golf is not as uncomfortable.

"It's tough to watch," Harmon said in his role as Sky analyst.

"It's like going to Wimbledon and watching Roger Federer not be able to hit the ball over the net.

"It's kind of sad. I am not sure any of us has the answer. He looks like a lost soul. We hope he would take time off and don't come back until you are 100pc ready to play."

Woods is not even at 50pc and even those closest to him do not know what happens next.

They expect Woods to remain with Chris Como and continue the radical swing change. But they wonder how long he can suffer such abject form. Notah Begay, his friend since they were 12, sounded very downbeat as he addressed the issue.

"He wants to stick this thing out, and I think we are going to see him stay on this course through the summer, through the next few events, and find out if he can turn any of this around in any way, shape or form," Begay said.

"Confidence is such an elusive thing for any athlete. You have to get positive reinforcement for any game you play. He's not getting that.

"He has to go on faith. He has to go on a belief what he is doing and the choices he's made are right." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

US Open, Live, Sky Sports 4, 7.00pm

Telegraph.co.uk

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