Sergio Garcia declared himself “proud” to be in contention for back-to-back majors, despite not being satisfied with his swing over the first two days of the US Open.
Garcia recovered from an early mistake to add a battling 71 to his opening 70 which left him in good shape on three under par heading into the weekend at Erin Hills.
The Masters champion bogeyed the 11th – his second – before a delightful pitch set up a tap-in birdie at 15 and he got under the card for the day with a huge 35-foot putt for an unlikely birdie on the 18th.
A blocked approach cost him another shot at the third, but he got it back when he holed a rapid 15-foot putt for a four at the long seventh and parred in to stay within striking distance of the leaders.
“I felt like I was swinging not great. I hit some really good shots coming in, but I struggled a little early on, and yesterday didn’t feel quite there,” said the Spaniard, who is playing in his 73rd consecutive major this week.
“To be three under par with a chance on the weekend, I’m proud of that. And I’ve got to keep the confidence going, keep the momentum and see if we can have a good weekend and have a chance on Sunday.
“I think the greens are getting more US Open-like, but not as firm as they’re going to get if we don’t get any rain. But I think they’re definitely getting a lot speedier, a lot faster. And a lot of times you have to be careful with some of the putts – you don’t want to be leaving yourself five or six footers because you got a little frisky with your first putt.
“But I’ve always liked it when a course plays tougher. Obviously my game is on when the course is playing tougher. I think I have a little bit of an advantage, but at the same time you have to be more on when it gets like that because if not, then you’re going to struggle. We can’t control Mother Nature and we’ll see what happens.”
Meanwhile, Danny Willett has again been forced to withdraw mid-tournament due to his long-standing back problems as he failed to show up for his second round.
Willett, who helped Garcia slip into his Green Jacket at Augusta in April after becoming the first defending champion to miss the cut since 2004, fired an opening nine-under 81 at Erin Hills.
The Englishman remains without a victory since his memorable Masters triumph last year, and he also withdrew from The Players Championship last month saying his “mind and body needed a rest”.
After his withdrawal was confirmed, Willett tweeted: “Well, another disappointing week comes to an end.. working hard to get back but the body and swing not allowing it.. sorry guys.. WD.”