Not Tiger's best, but good enough for now

Tiger Woods
Simon Bruty/SI
Woods shot a 1-over 71 Thursday.

OAKMONT, Pa. (AP) — Tiger Woods flipped an iron toward his bag in disgust. As another tee shot sailed right, he grumbled "Tiger!" And when a putt that would be a gimme anywhere else rolled several feet past the hole, he stared at it, stunned.

So, Tiger, how did that round go for you?

"On this golf course, it's fine, it's right there," he said.

Better than that. With a 1-over 71 Thursday, Woods was only three strokes off the lead at the U.S. Open. The rain that fell Wednesday afternoon didn't make Oakmont Country Club any easier, and red numbers were as scarce as trees on the course.

Nick Dougherty was 2 under, with Angel Cabrera a stroke behind. Bubba Watson and Jose Maria Olazabal were even par, and there came Woods and a whole bunch of other guys.

"If you shoot even just 3, 4, 5 over par, you're still in the tournament," Woods said. "You know that you're going to get some bad breaks and some good ones, and go along with it. If you make a mistake, accept the ramifications of it."

Woods has won four of the last nine majors, and is a two-time U.S. Open champion. But he hasn't won the Open since 2002, and last year he didn't even make it to the weekend, missing the cut at a major for the first time as a professional.

Of course, his life was much different then.

Winged Foot was the first tournament he played after the death of his father, Earl, and it was clear neither his heart nor his mind were ready. He sprayed shots all over the course and couldn't get putts to drop when he needed them. He looked lost, a jarring sight for everyone who's come to appreciate his gifted game and steely determination.

Now, though, Woods is in a much happier place. He's a few weeks from becoming a father for the first time, and he's won three times already this season, best on the PGA Tour. He's shown glimpses of the game that leaves everyone else playing for second, and he arrived at Oakmont as the favorite.

Nothing he did Thursday changed that, even if he wasn't at the top of the leaderboard.

"It was conservative today. That's how you normally play U.S. Opens," he said. "You don't play it aggressively."

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