Tiger Woods Ready For Prime Time

SAN DIEGO (AP) -- Everybody knows how good Tiger Woods is.

Now, the world gets to find out if the players chasing him are ready for prime time, too.

Woods' quest for a 14th major title continues later Saturday at Torrey Pines in the third round of the U.S. Open, which will end in prime time on the East Coast.

TV ratings are always higher when Woods, the world's best player, is in contention as he is this week, one shot off the lead at 2-under 140.

When America tunes in, among the supporting cast they'll be watching in this real-life drama are the leader, Stuart Appleby at 139, and Rocco Mediate and Robert Karlsson, who are tied with Woods.

Play began Saturday morning under gray skies - the Marine layer, they call it - and with 79 players still in the field, trying to do what often seems impossible - catch Tiger.

"People always ask me, 'Who's the favorite?'" Mediate said. "Well, of course, he's the favorite. Of course he is. A lot of people said, 'Well, he's not going to win because he's had, whatever, a thousand weeks off. But he's different. It's not the same."

Playing for the first time since his knee was cleaned out after the Masters, Woods hardly hobbled into the weekend.

He made five birdies over his closing nine holes Friday to card a 30, one shot off the best nine-hole score in U.S. Open history.

Of Tiger's 13 major championships, the U.S. Open has been the most elusive. He "only" has two of those and hasn't won it since 2002, at Bethpage Black in New York, the last time the national championship was played on a public course.

It's back on a public course again, though Torrey Pines hardly resembles what the average 10 handicapper will be playing this weekend.

"I don't think I'm the first guy to say it's very difficult out there," Appleby said, after he knocked in a 45-foot putt on the 18th hole to take the lead.

Long, lush kikuya grass frames the fairways, which are always narrowed down for the U.S. Open, annually billed as the toughest test in golf.

A freshening wind off the Pacific Ocean has made things tricky. But there were 30 below-par rounds over the first two days, and two more Saturday by Ryuji Imada and Anthony Kim, who came into the day tied for last. Both shot 1-under 70.

Last year at Oakmont, there were four below-par rounds over the first two days.

Easier?

Never when Woods is looming.

"When I talk about players or golf, he's not included because he's up there," Mediate said, pointing to the sky. "But you want him in this event. You don't want him 7-over. If you're going to win this tournament, it would be great to go up against him and maybe somehow, you never know."


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