ARDMORE, Pa. — History says Tiger Woods has little chance to win this U.S. Open. Not from behind, and certainly not with an elbow inflammation that seems to bother him most on his worst shots.
Woods says otherwise, and after a marathon stretch of play Friday that helped him creep into contention at Merion Golf Club it's still possible he could be the one having the last say.
Trying to break a winless streak in major championships that now spans five full years, Woods played 25-plus holes in a respectable 1-over 70 to move up the leaderboard on a day when many other players were going the other way.
It wasn't good enough to get under par, or even crack the top 10. But he was just four shots back and in prime position to make a move over the weekend on an Open course that is playing much tougher than a lot of people expected.
Asked if he liked his chances, Woods didn't hesitate to answer, "Yes."
Woods had some issues on a day that began for him in the early morning and didn't finish until midafternoon. He missed some putts he might ordinarily expect to make, barely moved a chip a few inches forward, and guessed wrong on a couple of shots.
But that's U.S. Open golf, and the best player in the world stood at 3-over 143 after two rounds — the same as playing partner and budding buddy Rory McIlroy.
"I just made a couple of mistakes out there today, but I really played well," Woods said. "Maybe I could have gotten one or two more out of it, but it was a pretty good day."
The night before, Woods underwent some treatment on his left elbow, which he shook several times after hitting bad shots in the first 11 holes of a rain-delayed round. He said he hurt the elbow at the Players Championship and that it was painful at times, though on his good shots it didn't seem to bother him at all.
"It is what it is," Woods said.
McIlroy said he didn't even notice Woods was having difficulty with the elbow.
"I haven't seen anything wrong with him," McIlroy said after finishing with his own 73-70.
More worrisome than the elbow for Woods might be the fact he's never won a tournament after playing over par for the first two rounds. He's also never won a major championship coming from behind in the final round.
And then there's that winless streak in major championships that now stretches back to the 2008 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines.
But while Woods remains stuck at 14 in his chase of the record of 18 majors won by Jack Nicklaus, it doesn't mean he's forgotten how to win in conditions favored at the Open.
"Just keep grinding," he said. "You don't ever know what the winning score is going to be. You don't know if the guys are going to come back. We have a long way to go, and these conditions aren't going to get any easier."
The conditions Friday were challenging enough, though Woods and McIlroy got the better of the weather. For the most part, they avoided winds that started to pick up in the afternoon as the rain-saturated course began drying out.
The two are the main golf stars for Nike and have become increasingly friendly over the past few years, though they are 13 years apart in age. Woods has 12 more major titles than McIlroy, but the star from Northern Ireland has won his two during Woods' winless drought.