Karlsson's reward for another strong day? A date with Woods

Wednesday December 17th, 2008

SAN DIEGO — Back-to-back 70's means Robert Karlsson will go into the weekend tied for second. He's the leading European, and just one shot off the lead.

His reward? A Saturday afternoon date with Tiger Woods in the penultimate group.

"That's a treat," Karlsson said, trying to sound convincing. "I know there will be a lot of noise with the crowds, and if Tiger holes out first, the people are going to be off," he said.

The last time Woods and Karlsson met head-to-head was in the singles of the 2006 Ryder Cup at the K Club in Dublin. Woods won, 3&2, but Europe easily won the Cup, again.

There were just six reporters waiting to hear the Swede's wise words on Friday night, and the USGA's Rand Jerris was reduced to asking his own questions.

Karlsson looked tired and said he would be in bed by 10. "I'm still suffering from jet lag," he admitted.

So how will he prepare for his round tomorrow? "I'll be up early to watch the football at 9 o'clock. Sweden are playing Spain in the European Championships. It's a really big game."

Spain smashed Russia, 4-1, in their last game, while Sweden edged Greece, 2-0. Saturday could be a long, painful day for Karlsson.

\nDonald catches some breaks
Sometimes you need a helping hand from Lady Luck when you're trying to snag your first major championship. Luke Donald's caddie and brother, Christian, was striding off the 14th green unaware that he had dropped his yardage book until an eagle-eyed spectator alerted him, saving his blushes and averting a family fracas. On the very next hole, Donald's drive flew right into the gallery but a lucky ricochet kept him out of the rough, eventually helping him hit a wedge to a foot to save par.

"That's good, pick it up," yelled a spectator. If only.

With two steady rounds of even-par 71 — three birdies and three bogies in each, perfect U.S. Open symmetry — the Englishman who calls Chicago home is lurking close to the lead heading into the weekend at Torrey Pines. "Any time you are around par at a major championship, especially a U.S. Open, you know you are doing something right," Donald said. "The last nine holes were a little scrappy, but you are going to get periods where you struggle out here and I was able to ride it out well enough."

Donald has some positive history at Torrey Pines, having twice finished runner-up at the Buick Invitational. But he has no illusions that the winning score this weekend will come anywhere close to the 19-under-par total Tiger Woods posted to win the Buick back in January. "If they want to get the greens a little firmer, then even par will be a good score," he said. "But if you can post four or five under par, then I think there is a good chance you'll walk away with the trophy."

\nIf you're lucky, that is.

\nHarrington shaves 11 off his first-round score
Two rounds gone, and it has been a classic night-and-day performance from the British Open champion, Padraig Harrington. He shot the second-lowest round of the championship so far on Friday, a flawless 67 with four birdies and 14 pars. At three over, he's in the thick of it.

It was 11 shots better than his first-round 78, which was as erratic as his second round was controlled. What the heck is going on with his game? In typical fashion for Harrington, who doesn't quite see the world the way most people do, Friday was not necessarily the better day.

"Strangely, I felt like I played better yesterday," he said. "I came out today and played nicely, maybe not as good in terms of striking, but I was holing the putts that I was missing yesterday."

Despite the big number on Thursday, Harrington made four birdies in the first round, and he went into Friday figuring he could put himself back into the tournament.

"The pins seemed a bit easier today, but they always do when you shoot 67," he said, laughing. "Another two of those on the weekend will do me very nicely."

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