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Thursday, June 14, 2012
Updated: June 16, 9:02 AM ET
Is the U.S. Open Tiger's to lose?

ESPN.com

After trading body blows with The Olympic Club on Friday, Tiger Woods came out on top with a share of the 36-hole lead at the U.S. Open.

So what are his chances of winning major No. 15 on Sunday? And who made the biggest move in Round 2 to challenge for the title?

Our experts tackle those topics and more in our latest edition of U.S. Open Four-Ball.

1. Fact or fiction: The U.S. Open is Tiger Woods' to lose.


Farrell Evans, ESPN.com senior golf writer: Fact. He's won eight of nine majors when he's had the 36-hole lead.

Bob Harig, ESPN.com senior golf writer: Fiction. His lead could be gone after one hole Saturday. There is too much golf to be played, even for Tiger, whose record from this position is impressive. There are 17 players within 4 shots of the lead. We'll have a better idea Saturday night.

Curtis Strange, ESPN golf analyst and two-time U.S. Open winner: Fiction. There are two world-class players, Jim Furyk and David Toms, tied with him and a lot of world-class players right behind him.

Gene Wojciechowski, ESPN.com senior national columnist: Fact. He's tied for the lead with 36 holes to play. He's in charge of his own destiny.


2. Which player made the biggest move Friday to get back into contention at the U.S. Open?


Farrell Evans: Nicolas Colsaerts, a 29-year-old Belgian, had a 1-under-par 69 on Friday to get to 1 over for the tournament after a 72 on Thursday. Colsaerts, who won the Volvo Match Play earlier this year, leads the field in driving with a 332-yard average. He's the little-known guy in the pack who could be a giant-killer.

Bob Harig: Steve Stricker. His 68 was the second-lowest score of the second round, and it moved him from outside the top 100 to a tie for 18th after an opening-round 76. Stricker is still 5 strokes back of the lead, but another 68 on Saturday would go a long way toward making things interesting.

Curtis Strange: Charl Schwartzel birdied two on the back nine. He is at plus-3. He's last year's Masters champion. His 68 was the second-lowest score for the day, so nobody made a big move.

Gene Wojciechowski: I like how Hunter Mahan grinded it out to move to 3 over. He kept it together after some early struggles.


3. What kind of adjustments will the contenders need to make to stay near the lead Saturday?


Farrell Evans: It all depends on the weather and pin positions. The weather forecast is for hotter temperatures Saturday, so an already lightning-fast course will only get faster. The players will have to continue to shape their shots in these tricky fairways and land their balls on the greens in the right quadrants to stay on the putting surface.

Bob Harig: It's more about doing what they've been doing. The leaders are hitting fairways and greens. That's the key at Olympic. Keep it out of trouble, negate the big numbers.

Curtis Strange: No adjustments at all. They're just learning the golf course each day, learning more each day. The players don't play this course but for the Open, so you're learning on the course every time you can play it.

It's a very hard course that requires precision. I guess more than anything else, you need to be mentally ready; it will test everything you have.

Gene Wojciechowski: One word: p-a-t-i-e-n-c-e.


4. Will Sunday's winner be in red numbers, black numbers or even par?


Farrell Evans: I think by Sunday afternoon, especially with the tournament ending on a couple of par-5s and a short par-4 18th, the winner will get to at least 1 under to win. Now, if the event ended on the front nine, I might say even par or 1 over.

Bob Harig: Red numbers. But barely. Course conditions don't figure to get any easier, but so many players are bunched around even par that it remains a good possibility that at least one of them will get under par for 72 holes.

Curtis Strange: I still think even par will win. But so much depends on the weather. It's not supposed to blow hard, but a small breeze is in the forecast. It depends on how the players handle the pressure and the pressure of each other.

Tiger played really well today. After the fourth hole, it looked like bye-bye, but then he made three bogies in a row. It's hard on everybody. I don't care how good you are. It's the type of course that no one will shoot real low. I expect quite a number of people to have a chance Sunday.

Gene Wojciechowski: Depends on what the USGA wants to do with the course. I'm guessing even par or maybe a nick above.