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Woods hits 66, gets in the hunt at US Open

By Eddie Pells (China Daily)
Updated: 2010-06-21 09:36
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Woods hits 66, gets in the hunt at US Open

Tiger Woods reacts to making a birdie putt on the 17th hole during the third round of the US Open Golf Championship in Pebble Beach, California on June 19, 2010. [Agencies]

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. - Forget fist pumps. When Tiger Woods watched his putt on No 17 roll in - a putt he later admitted was "a joke" - he raised his right arm and extended his index finger high in the air.

No 1.

Who knows? Maybe he can still get there this week after a remarkable round of US Open golf on Saturday at Pebble Beach.

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Woods shot 5-under 31 on the back nine to post a 5-under 66 for the day and vault from also-ran to big-time contender. He was at 1-under 212 for the tournament, alone in third place, five shots behind leader Dustin Johnson with only one player, Graeme McDowell, in between.

"He's the best player in the world," Johnson said. "It's not a shock to see he's right there."

The 66 was Woods' best score since returning to tournament golf following his uncomfortable winter on the sidelines. The putts, on greens he ridiculed as "awful" on Thursday, finally started falling and he started converting on a swing that suddenly rounded into form.

"It's a process," Woods said. "You have to just build. All the Opens I've won, I've had one stretch of nine holes where I put it together."

It's a testament to his game that he did it on the back nine at Pebble - the tougher nine and the nine the leaders were playing with bright sunshine and brisk winds drying out the course and making the greens bumpy.

The highlight of Woods' round will go down as his second shot on No 18. Squirreled behind one of the two huge trees on the right side of the fairway, his caddie, Steve Williams, told him he was 260 yards away - the perfect distance to go for it. He crushed a 3-wood, hustled to his left, yelled at the ball, 'C'mon, C'mon,' then watched it land 15 feet from the pin.

A two-putt for a birdie and a round of 66 - only one stroke off the 65 he shot on opening day at Pebble in 2000, when he was a different player and he went on to win by a record 15 shots.

On this day, though, memories of Torrey Pines - where he won his last major - were more apropos. Two years ago at the US Open, he was injured, trying to turn a good Saturday into something better when he hit a chip shot from the side of the 17th green that came out of the rough hot, bounced once and somehow went in. He took his hat off, covered his face, laughed sheepishly. Didn't mean that to happen. But sometimes it does.

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