Four players – Paul Casey, Tommy Fleetwood, Brian Harman and Brooks Koepka – share the 36-hole lead in the 117th U.S. Open at Erin Hills.
Even at more than 7,800 yards, Erin Hills is the longest venue in championship history, red has become a predominant color on the boards, with 42 competitors under par at the midway point and the leaders at 7-under par.
Soft conditions from early-week rains, warm temperatures and the lack of gusty winds have made Erin Hills vulnerable to scoring. Hideki Matsuyama and Chez Reavie both shot 7-under 65s on Friday. A day after a record 44 under-par scores were posted in Round 1, 46 were recorded on Friday, one shy of the number posted in 1990, in Round 2 on Medinah Country Club’s Course No. 3.
As low as the scores may sound they were not low enough for the top three players in the Official World Golf Rankings- Dustin Johnson, Rory McIlroy, and Jason Day. The three elite players of golf failed to make the thirty six hole cut and will not play on the weekend. This is the first time this has happened since 1986.
World No. 1 and defending champion Dustin Johnson posted 4-over 148 to miss by three. World No. 2 Rory McIlroy, the 2011 champion, was another shot behind, and No. 3 Jason Day finished at 10-over 154. Three others in the top 10 – Henrik Stenson (No. 6), Alex Noren (No. 8) and Jon Rahm (No. 10) also missed the cut.
Sixty-eight competitors will play the final 36 holes – including two amateurs – and the run of six consecutive first-time major champions is very much a possibility come Sunday evening.
First-round leader Rickie Fowler shot a one-over 73 and is one shot behind the leaders. He is joined by J.B. Holmes and Jamie Lovemark.
The low scores are not without some big numbers on many holes at Erin Hills. Paul Casey who entered Friday’s second round one off the lead, suffered a triple-bogey 8 on the par-5 14th – his fifth hole of the day – before recovering with five consecutive birdies from No. 17. His 1-under 70 put him in Saturday’s final pairing with Harman.
Not every day you enjoy a round of golf with an 8 on the card, but I’m a pretty happy man,” said Casey, who along with Fowler is still seeking his first major victory.
Dustin Johnson was the favorite coming to Erin Hills but his game abandoned him. Johnson said his game was good and solid, except for putting.
“If you look at the golf course and you even talk to me, Jason or Rory, this course sets up perfect for us. But as we all know, this game’s all about putting. So it’s pretty simple, I just didn’t get it in the hole fast enough.”
Johnson is scheduled to have a month off and when asked what his plans were he responded:
“Probably not too long. I need to practice a little bit. I need to work on my putting mostly. But I’ll play a lot. I won’t practice too much. I’ll probably just play for sure to get ready for the British.”
McIlroy put his results into perspective and when asked how hungry he was for a win,
“Yeah, I’m hungry, but I’m not going to force it. I’m going to let it happen. I’m going to play. The worst thing I can do is go and force it, because that’s not my game. I sort of have to let it come to me little bit. And I know if I go out and play the golf I’m capable of, good things should happen. So I’m just focusing on doing what I can do and I want to win tournaments, but if I do the right thing, I hit fairways, I swing it better and hole putts, it should all add up to being successful.”
Jason Day was a little less positive and hinted he was fatiqued:
“Yeah, I woke up this morning pretty tired. It was a quick turnaround. In the end I probably shouldn’t have gone and hit balls last night, because I came out a little sluggish this morning, just quite — I wasn’t quite on. I’m already fighting an uphill battle what I shot yesterday, knowing I had to shoot something very, very low to get myself back in the tournament. Right now the wind is dying down and it’s going to be easier for the guys in the afternoon, teeing off right now. Yeah, I don’t know what else to say.”
Rickie Fowler was not able to come close to his 65 he had on Thursday but says experience in past majors will help him this weekend.
“Yeah, I hate just being in the situation where I’ve been in a good spot and maybe let it get away from me a little bit and let some mistakes compound and turn a round that you kind of fight through it and end up being in a decent spot after the day. I’ve been in positions where there’s been a couple that have kind of gone the wrong way and you miss the cut. You look back, and I just grinded it out.
I’m playing the weekend. I have a tee time on Saturday, so it just kind of you learn along the way to never really give up. You never know what one shot’s going to count for.”
Only eight strokes separate last place to first place after 36 holes, so anyone has a chance to win. If the USGA wanted this type of parity, they certainly are successful after two days.