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Look out: Tiger Woods charging at US Open again, 1 behind leader Michael Thompson

Tiger Woods makes his way to the 18th tee during a practice round for the U.S. Open Championship golf tournament Wednesday, June 13, 2012, at The Olympic Club in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

SAN FRANCISCO - Tiger Woods is charging at the U.S. Open again.

Woods made back-to-back birdies to climb to 2-under par through 15 holes Thursday, one behind leader Michael Thompson in the opening round. Jason Bohn and David Toms also were at 2 under.

The morning fog that blanketed the tight, twisting Lake Course at The Olympic Club lifted by the time the group of Woods, Phil Mickelson and Masters champion Bubba Watson made the turn. Not that faster and firmer conditions under the sun were needed for his playing partners: Mickelson was at 4 over and Watson 7 over.

The roars were only for one man in the marquee group.

The 14-time major champion was in complete control of his game, finding fairways, sticking greens and avoiding the thick rough and towering trees that line the course built on the side of a hill across the street from the Pacific Ocean. He opened with five straight pars until his approach on the par-4 14th bounced off the tiny green and he settled for bogey.

That might have been the one mistake he made all day.

With the marine layer hovering above the grounds and San Francisco's steep hills in the backdrop at the start, Woods kept his drives in the narrow fairways and reached all but the one green in regulation. He holed a 45-foot birdie putt on the par-4 5th, bringing the gallery roaring to its feet the way only he can.

Woods, not always straight off the tee, mixed driver and irons off the tee throughout his round on a course that is not particularly long for this championship. The only downside through his stretch of pars: he two putted each time.

That would cost him when Woods' wayward approach on the 14th landed on the back of the tiny green and bounced near the barrier in the deep rough. He missed a 10-foot par putt right until rallying with a birdie putt on No. 17.

The group headed for the first tee and the treacherous front eight, and that's when Woods turned up his game. The close proximity of the ninth tee to the clubhouse prompted the USGA to send players off holes No. 1 and No. 9 — instead of the usual 10th — during the first two rounds.

Woods missed birdie putts on the first and second holes — yanking the latter off the lip from about 4 feet — and followed with another par. He stuck his approach within 8 feet on the par-4 4th and sunk another birdie putt.

The round was the first time Woods and Mickelson are paired in the Open since Torrey Pines four years ago. That's when the U.S. Golf Association grouped players off the world ranking, and also the last time Woods won a major.

Defending champion Rory McIlroy, top-ranked Luke Donald and Lee Westwood had an afternoon start.

McIlroy shattered U.S. Open records last year at rain-softened Congressional when he reached double figures under par before he even turned in his second-round scorecard. He finished at 268 to break the 72-hole mark by four shots, and his 16-under par was four better than Woods at Pebble Beach in 2000.


Follow Antonio Gonzalez at: www.twitter.com/agonzalezAP

News from © The Associated Press, 2012
The Associated Press

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