- Farrell Evans, Golf
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BETHESDA, Md. -- A day after comparing the conditions this week at Congressional to those of a U.S. Open, Tiger Woods fought his way on Friday morning to a 3-under-par 68 in the second round of the AT&T National.
Woods' two-day total of 2 under left him 5 shots off the lead held by Hunter Mahan.
In temperatures that topped 100 degrees, Mahan ran off seven birdies Friday afternoon for a 6-under 65. It was the best score of the week at Congressional, and it gave him a 2-shot lead over Robert Garrigus (who had his sixth straight under-par round at Congressional, including last year's U.S. Open when he became a footnote in history as only the fourth American to break par all rounds in that major), Jimmy Walker and Brendon de Jonge.
"This is just one of those days where you have to be patient," Woods said. "I thought that anything in the 60s would be a good score. And I thought my 68 was a very good score today."
For the second consecutive day, Congressional's Blue Course played hard and fast in sweltering heat. But according to Woods, the setup was slightly more conducive for scoring Friday.
"If the [conditions] stay like this, I don't see the lead going anywhere," Woods said. "But it was good today. I think the tour staff did a great job of moving some of the tees up, and we had corner pins or front pins.
"It was fair. Today I thought you could be a little more aggressive than yesterday."
The heat was so stifling that Chris Couch struggled to finish, one caddie had to stop after nine holes and another threw up from drinking too much water.
But it did little to slow Mahan.
"I hit a lot of good shots," said Mahan, who missed only two fairways and three greens. "I hit so many fairways and greens, I made it easy on myself. This is a pretty punishing golf course if you get off line a little bit. I put myself in some great spots to make putts. And I felt like I played well on the back, when it was getting really hot and you're getting a little bit more tired."
Mahan was at 7-under 135. His two rounds fulfilled what his swing coach, Sean Foley, said Thursday when he described his ballstriking as "a laser show."
Woods started his second round on Congressional's long and grueling back nine that, on Thursday, played more than a shot over par. After routine pars over the first four holes on the back, Woods found the rough off the tee at the par-4 14th and had to get up and down for par from 76 yards. He found the rough again at the 15th but hit a nice spinning pitch from 93 yards that nestled close to the hole en route to a par.
Then at the 16th, he made a 48-foot eagle putt to get to 1 under.
"That was actually a tricky putt because it was a double-breaking putt up that hill," Woods said. "It's hard left and then just wants to feed back a couple of balls to the right, and I was waiting for it to feed back because it was hanging, hanging, hanging, and then it just fell right in."
After making the turn at 1 under, the 36-year-old, 14-time major winner found the rough again with a fairway metal off the tee at the par-4 first, leading to his first bogey of the day. He made his first birdie of the round at the par-4 fifth. From there, he made another birdie at No. 8 and a round-concluding par at No. 9.
"Today, I think I got more out of my round than I did yesterday," Woods said. "On a golf course like this, you're not going to hit it perfect all day. It's just too difficult. I had to make some saves, and I made two key saves there at 14 and 15."
Garrigus was rightfully proud when he mentioned Thursday evening that he was only the fourth American with four sub-par rounds in the U.S. Open. The others were Lee Trevino at Oak Hill in 1968, Lee Janzen at Baltusrol in 1993 and Curtis Strange at Oakmont in 1994. Strange and Garrigus are the only ones in that group who didn't win.
Even going back to previous AT&T National events at Congressional, Garrigus has quite a record -- this was his 18th round, and he has been over par only three times.
"Everything about this course fits my eye," he said. "If I'm playing well and swinging it good, I feel like I can hit every fairway, just the way everything sets up. They give you perfect targets. There's stuff to aim at. That's what I love."
While the hot weather certainly will take a toll on most of the players at Congressional, Woods said he is prepared for the high temperatures this weekend.
"I live in Florida," he said. "It's not quite this hot there, but it's definitely more humid."
Woods recalled the blazing hot weather at Southern Hills when he won the 2007 PGA Championship.
"I felt physically fit to go, and I didn't have any problem with it," he said. "I have played some good tournaments over the years in Malaysia and other places where it's hot.
"Certainly running all those miles and lifting all those weights comes into play when you have weather like this on consecutive days."
Woods said that Congressional is equally a mental and physical test.
"You have to hit the golf ball well, but then also there's the mental test," he said. "You're going to be out here for probably six hours, seven hours, and it's a long day, and it's going to be tough."
After 36 holes at his two wins on the year, Woods was tied for first at Bay Hill and in a tie for second at the Memorial.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.
11hZach Jones, ESPN Stats & Information