PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. — Gary Woodland believes it’s finally his time.
This week. This major championship. This U.S. Open.
In his first 27 career major championships, Woodland failed to post as much as a top-10 finish. In his past four, he has had two top-10s.
On Saturday, entering the third round of the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach, he will take a two-shot lead over Justin Rose to the first tee.
It’s his second career 36-hole lead in a major.
Woodland, who shot a 6-under 65 in Friday’s second round, is 9-under for the tournament, two shots clear of Rose, the 2013 U.S. Open winner who shot 70 on Friday and is 7-under, three shots clear of Louis Oosthuizen and four shots ahead of Rory McIlroy and Aaron Wise.
“It’s not something that you’re proud of,’’ Woodland said of those first 27 majors in which he was never in contention. “From all those experiences, you learn. I’ve been in this position before. Last year in August at Bellerive [in the PGA Championship], and didn’t come out where I wanted to, but I learned a lot from that.
“I don’t have to be perfect with my ball striking, because I have other things that can pick me up, that’s been a big confidence boost for me, knowing I don’t have to be perfect I can still contend and have a chance to win.
“My short game has come around. I’ve always been a pretty good ball-striker, I’ve relied on my ball-striking on my whole career, athletic ability. But the short game and putting has kind of held me back. At the PGA last year, I made a lot of putts, especially early in the week.
“Obviously it was nice to finish the top-10 and get that monkey off the back.’’
Rose walked off of the Pebble Beach course Friday with the tournament lead — before Woodland teed off. And yet, he wasn’t close to satisfied.
“I like the way I’m trending,’’ Rose said. “I still don’t like the way I’m cooking. I still need some more firepower if I’m going to hoist some hardware over the weekend.’’
Indeed, Rose’s first 36 holes at Pebble represented somewhat of a high-wire act. He hit only 16-of-28 fairways and 19-of-36 greens in regulation. Those are not numbers that usually translate to high finishes at U.S. Opens.
Yet there was Rose at 7-under and with the tournament lead when he completed his round, with Woodland and the afternoon wave of players still yet to tee off.
“That’s the best I’ve seen somebody get up-and-down around the golf course for two rounds maybe ever,’’ said Jordan Spieth, who had a front-row seat for it, paired with Rose and Tiger Woods for the first two days.
Rose, who won the Farmers Insurance Open in February at Torrey Pines, was the 2013 U.S. Open champion at Merion and he has been vocal about the importance of joining the multiple-major-champions club.
After his round Friday, Rose was asked how much major-championship experience might help him over the weekend and what it would mean for him to win a second career major.
“I hope [experience] counts for a lot and I hope it means a lot,’’ Rose said. “But I’m experienced enough to know that there’s no point answering the second part of your question right now. There’s a long way to go.
“Here and St. Andrews would probably be the two most iconic places to lift a bit of silver. I couldn’t think of anything better. But if you don’t mind, I’m just going to wait a couple of days [to answer the second question].’’
Rose knows the way he’s struck the ball likely won’t be good enough to sustain him for the next 36 holes. If not for his top ranking in strokes gained putting this week, he probably wouldn’t be within five shots of the lead.
“My short game has been really, really strong this week,’’ he said. “I’ve made a lot of putts inside 10 feet. I’ve managed my game really well. I’ve missed it in the wrong spots. I’ve always given myself an opportunity to salvage something out of every hole I’ve played. And I haven’t compounded any mistakes so far.’’
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