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U.S. Open Golf Day Two: Tiger Strikes on Elimination Day

Tiger Woods made the turn on Friday after firing a 2-over 38, to put him 3-over for the U.S. Open. He promptly put his drive on #1 (his 10th hole of the day) next to a tree just off the cart path. Another yard of roll, and Woods would have been blocked by the tree. Instead he fires an 8-iron pin high, hobbles toward the green -- and sank the putt to begin a string of five straight 3's that to lead to a five-under 30 on his second nine. His 68 puts him just one shot behind the 36-hole leader, Stuart Appleby.

Woods unleashed his spectacular putter on the 2nd nine to put himself in prime position on a leaderboard that has 11 players within three strokes of the lead.

At the halfway point of the U.S. Open, Tiger Woods is 6-under par on the front 9 at Torrey Pines, and 4-over par on the back 9,

Thursday's leaders, as expected, quickly faded into the background as Kevin Streelman struggled in with a 77, while Justin Hicks skied to an 80. They gave way to a host of golfers with championship credentials, setting up a potentially spectacular weekend finish.

Appleby fired a consistent 1-under 70 Friday, that was capped by a 45-foot birdie putt on his final hole to give him the sole lead at the halfway point.

Appleby, the halfway leader at the U.S. Open, led the 2007 Masters at the 54-hole mark.

Phil Mickelson once again took the driver out of his bag, and paid the price. Mickelson carried five wedges in his bag Friday, and went with his 3-wood to try and help keep his ball in the fairway off the tee. But Lefty hit only 7 of 14 fairways on Friday, and had only 2 birdies to go with 6 bogies as he limped in with a 4-over 75.

Rocco Mediate and Swedish golfer Robert Karlsson are tied with Woods at 2-under 140 going into Saturday's play. Davis Love III and Lee Westwood lead a group at 1-under par.

After Woods hit his approach shot from just inches off the cart path on No. 1, he never missed another fairway or another green.

"Whether you call it a zone or not, I got into a rhythm," Woods said. "I've been there before. I've had nice rounds like that. I was just trying to get back to even par. I just happened to make some putts. That was it."

While Woods obviously dominated the action today, there are quality players well within striking distance of the leaders. With Woods at the top and Torrey Pines offering plenty of opportunities for players to take chances to make up strokes, the NBC executives who decided to telecast the weekend action in prime time look "smarter than a tree full of owls."