By John Nestor PA SportsTicker Golf Editor
OAKMONT, Pennsylvania (Ticker) — Angel Cabrera is in the lead after two rounds of the U.S. Open, but to hear him tell it, his work has just begun.
Cabrera battled Oakmont as best he could and has earned a draw after Friday’s second round. At even-par 140, he has a one-shot lead heading into the weekend.
A birdie at 18, where he nearly holed his approach shot, gave the Argentinian a 1-over 71 for the round. Bubba Watson is alone in second at 1-over 141 after a 71.
“I’m playing very well, so the tournament starts tomorrow,” Cabrera said. “I have to play well on the weekend and keep my concentration for tomorrow because that is when the tournament is going to start.”
Saturday may be the beginning of the event in Cabrera’s mind but Friday was the end for a number of big name players, including Phil Mickelson.
Mickelson is left to ponder another disappointment at the U.S. Open, mainly due to his own sloppy play but helped along by a sand wedge shot by Cabrera.
Mickelson showed signs of life early, but faded miserably to a 7-over 77 that left him at 11-over 151 and on the wrong side of the cut line.
After failing to card a birdie in his first round, Mickelson had two in his first six holes on Friday, but he played the next four holes in 6-over and played himself out of the tournament.
Mickelson had a chance as play was drawing to a close as Cabrera was tied with Watson for the lead at 1-over. If the leaders stayed at 1-over, Mickelson would have made it due to the 10-shot rule but Cabrera took care of that.
He nearly holed a sand wedge from 135 yards on 18, leaving himself a tap-in for birdie to give him the outright lead and show Mickelson the door.
Cabrera was unapologetic.
“I did not knock out Mickelson,” Cabrera said. “Mickelson knocked out himself. He shot 11-over.”
Paul Casey is at 143 after a stellar 4-under 66, the lowest round of the championship so far.
Tiger Woods struggled to a round of 74 and is five shots off of the lead. He made just two birdies with six bogeys but felt as if he played better than the numbers would indicate.
“I don’t know what the average score was, but I think I shot under-par,” Woods said. “It was just really hard to try and place the ball underneath the hole. A lot more difficult than yesterday.”
It is likely to get even more difficult over the weekend when, as Cabrera said, the tournament really begins. There have been only four rounds under-par over the first two days and the USGA is not known for setting up Open courses that are conducive to major charges down the stretch.
If Woods is going to mount a charge and win his third U.S. Open and first since 2002, he will have to hit more fairways, he found only six on Friday despite using iron off the tee a number of times, and hope the USGA keeps Oakmont from truly becoming “Oakmonster”.
“It’s close, it’s right on the edge I think,” Woods said when asked if the course was getting away from the USGA. “If they don’t water the golf course it’s going to be a lot more difficult. I don’t know where the pins are going to be tomorrow but I just know that it’s going to be a test for all of us.”
Woods will tee it up for the third round with England’s Nick Dougherty, who was tested all day on Friday and managed to keep his chin up if not his score down.
The first-round leader after a 68, Dougherty found Oakmont a much less congenial host for the second round, as he fired a 7-over 77 to join Woods at 5-over 145.
Dougherty had four birdies on Thursday but managed just one on Friday. It came at the par-3 13th, his fourth hole of the day and it gave him a two-shot lead at 3-under. He then gave back three shots over the next two holes and never recovered.
Another bogey at 18 dropped Dougherty to 1-over and he slid further down the leaderboard with four bogeys on his back nine. Despite the rough going, Dougherty was able to take it all in stride.
“It was tough and a real struggle and 7-over is a bad score, but it’s put me in the tournament,” Dougherty said. “I’m relatively pleased to be honest.”
Pleased because he is still in the hunt entering the weekend and, after all, that’s when the tournament really starts.