Leader Woodland hoping to hold nerve in US Open third round

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Halfway leader: American Gary Woodland celebrates after a closing birdie at the ninth in the second-round of the US Open

Halfway leader: American Gary Woodland celebrates after a closing birdie at the ninth in the second-round of the US Open (AFP Photo/Warren Little)

Pebble Beach (United States) (AFP) - Gary Woodland believes he can hold his nerve as he takes a two-shot lead into the third round of the US Open at Pebble Beach on Saturday in pursuit of his first major title.

The American jarred a 15-foot putt to save par at the eighth hole on Friday, then produced an unlikely birdie at the ninth, his final hole, after his tee shot landed in a divot.

His six-under second round of 65 matched the best-ever posted in a US Open at Pebble Beach, achieved first by Tiger Woods in 2000 and matched on Thursday by Justin Rose.

With a 36-hole total of nine-under 133 -- one better than Woods' previous Pebble Beach US Open record -- Woodland leads Rose by two strokes and tees off alongside the Englishman at 2:45pm (2145 GMT).

He thinks he has the experience now to put in a better weekend performance than he did when leading at the halfway stage in the PGA Championship at Bellerive last year, when he played on Saturday with eventual winner Brooks Koepka and on Sunday with Woods.

"You can't get caught up in what's going on around you," he said. "Obviously there's a lot more noise going on. Playing with Tiger on Sunday, I'd never seen anything like that...

"Adrenaline is a huge deal. You learn to stay within yourself and what you have to do to calm yourself down and stay within your game plan."

- Woods chasing -

The crowds that flock around Woods won't impact Woodland on Saturday. The 15-time major champion stumbled to a bogey-bogey finish in a one-over par 72 that left him even for the tournament, nine strokes off the pace.

Woods was due to tee off at 11:27am alongside South Korea's An Byeong-hun.

But plenty of players with championship pedigrees were in hot pursuit of Woodland.

South Africa's Louis Oosthuizen, the 2010 Open champion, was three back after a rollicking second-round 70 that included seven birdies and six bogeys.

Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy, the 2011 US Open champion, was a further shot back, tied with Aaron Wise.

Two-time defending champion Koepka, trying to become just the second player to win three straight US Opens and the first in more than a century -- carded a second consecutive 69 to lie five adrift.

The cloudy, calm conditions that produced ideal scoring conditions at Pebble Beach over the first two days remained on Saturday morning.

But with the rough up, the course could still bite. McIlroy was just one of the players with a double-bogey on his card on Friday. Reigning British Open champion Francesco Molinari limped to a double-bogey, bogey finish to drop seven off the pace.

Of the 79 players who made the halfway cut, 31 were under par, but Rose said that despite the many low scores, Pebble Beach at the weekend would be a typically difficult US Open challenge.

"You know you're going to need to make those sort of key five-, six-, seven-, eight-foot putts for par, and invariably they have a lot of swing on them on this golf course," Rose said.

"They are makeable. You feel like you should make them. But they're kind of 50-50 putts. So when you make them you are keeping up the momentum and then you miss one you really feel like you've lost something."