PINEHURST, N.C. - The second round of the 105th U.S. Open at Pinehurst Resort and Country Club yesterday resembled an over-35 league softball game: lots of lead changes and more than a few players in need of a cold one when it was over.
For those trying to follow this wild and wacky day on a dusty and devilish No. 2 course, journeyman Olin Browne started the round tied for the lead and finished it the same way. In between, no fewer than five others shared or held the lead.
Browne, the 46-year-old from Washington who nearly dropped out halfway through the sectional qualifier, is at 2-under-par 138 through 36 holes, tied with defending champion Retief Goosen of South Africa and Jason Gore.
South Korea's K.J. Choi and Australia's Mark Hensby were one stroke behind. Four others - former PGA and Masters champion Vijay Singh, the world's top-ranked player; Sergio Garcia of Spain; Lee Westwood of England and Michael Campbell of New Zealand - were two strokes back.
Gore, a 31-year-old Nationwide Tour player who lost his PGA Tour card two years ago, knew what was in store for him last night.
"I'm going to go home and turn on the TV and everybody is going to rip me," he said. "For just not being one of the Big Five or something like that. A no-name Nationwide Tour player leading the Open. But stuff happens. It's the U.S. Open; crazy things happen."
Crazy things did happen yesterday. Like former Masters champion and three-time Open runner-up Phil Mickelson making six bogeys in his first nine holes on his way to shooting 7-over-par 77. Like former PGA champion David Toms falling from the lead to a tie for 17th place over his last two holes.
In all, 27 players were within five shots of the lead.
"Days like today typify the U.S. Open," said two-time champion Tiger Woods, who finished with a 1-over-par 71 to stay three strokes behind in a group of seven that included former Open champion Jim Furyk, Australian Adam Scott and first-round co-leader Rocco Mediate.
"Every hole is pretty much a bit of a grind out there," said Goosen, 36, who is looking for his third Open championship in the past five years after winning last year at Shinnecock Hills and in 2001 at Southern Hills. "I don't know why I'm suddenly doing well in this particular event. Still have a long way to go this weekend."
It appeared he was going to distance himself from the field when he got to 2-under for the day and 4-under for the tournament through 13 holes. But Goosen, who started on the back nine, made sloppy bogeys from the middle of the fairway on the par-4 fifth and par-4 seventh.
He relinquished the lead to Toms, who tied for the lead when Goosen bogeyed the fifth, took it with an 18-foot birdie on the seventh, but dropped from the leader board entirely after a double bogey on the par-4 eighth and a triple bogey on the par-3 ninth.
"I took my time on every shot," said Toms, who found a bunker on the eighth and two more on the ninth. "What I did on 9 wasn't the result of what I did on 8. I regrouped on every shot and made a solid triple."
The problems encountered by Goosen and Toms brought a number of players back into serious contention, particularly Woods.
"It takes a lot because you have to stay in the present," said Woods, who after making a birdie on the par-4 16th just missed a chance for another at the par-4 18th, leaving him with a 1-over 71. "That's the way all majors are. That's the fun of it. You can't have highs and lows out there. That's why it takes so much out of you."
Mickelson, who lost on the 72nd hole to the late Payne Stewart when the Open was played here six years ago and by two strokes to Goosen last year, only had lows yesterday in shooting his second-worst score in an Open. Included in the six bogeys was a stretch of four straight right before he made the turn.
Said Browne: "This course will kick your butt, plain and simple. Every single shot, when you have a wedge in your hands, there's almost more pressure on those shots, because you expect yourself to hit a good shot. It requires a lot of patience and a lot of discipline - two things I lack, by the way."
Those are qualities Goosen seems to have in abundance. In his two previous Open victories, Goosen was in first place after six of the eight rounds, all four in 2001 and the last two rounds a year ago after going from 20th to fourth the first two rounds.
Browne is as hopeful as Goosen, but doesn't have the resume to back it up. Aside from finishing tied for fifth in the 1997 U.S. Open at Congressional, Browne has never been in serious contention. That his last tour victory was six years ago at The Colonial doesn't exactly legitimize his chances here.
"This game is all about balance; certainly, life is all about balance," Browne said. "I hit the ball as well as I'm capable [Thursday], and it was the opposite today. Hopefully, I've gotten that out of the way and I can return to normal tomorrow. The challenge for me today was not to implode."
He didn't, but others did - Mickelson on his front nine, Toms on his last few holes. That's what happens at the Open, especially here on a dusty and devilish course such as famed No. 2. The kind of course, and the kind of day, when a cold one seems in order.
The second-round leaders ...
Olin Browne 67-71-138
Retief Goosen 68-70-138
Jason Gore 71-67-138
... and selected followers
K.J. Choi 69-70-139
Tiger Woods 70-71-141
Complete scores, 7C