“Today really felt like a U.S. Open. I can tell you that.”
Xander Schauffele’s post-round comment perfectly summarized how quickly a U.S. Open can change from one day to the next.
While Friday’s round at Winged Foot wasn’t complete carnage, it did satisfy many of golf’s masochists who were left thinking, "That’s more like it."
After a first round on Thursday that produced 21 players under par, round two was a completely different story. Breezy, dry conditions at Winged Foot were paired with increasingly difficult hole locations which brought the leaders back to the pack and resulted in just three rounds under par on the day.
Through 36 holes, Patrick Reed leads the 120th U.S. Open Championship at -4 following a round of 70 on Friday. The 2018 Masters champion sits one shot ahead of Bryson DeChambeau, who put together one of the three sub-par rounds of the day.
All nine of the top 10 ranked players in the world who are in the field are moving on to the weekend while three-time U.S. Open champion Tiger Woods is heading home after missing the cut at the Open for just the third time in his career. Tiger, who stumbled to a round of 77, was one of the many big names that was chewed up and spit out by Winged Foot after finishing +10 for 36 holes.
Here are a few takeaways from round two at the U.S. Open.
How important was Friday? All but two of the last 24 U.S. Open champions have been within two shots or better of the lead after 36 holes. This year that list runs just five players deep and is led by two of the most polarizing figures in the game.
Patrick Reed has been controversial since the day he stepped foot on the PGA Tour, toeing the line when it comes to both rules and etiquette. Bryson DeChambeau has threatened to transform the game in 2020 with a revamped physique (close to a 40-pound weight gain) and increased ball speed (near 200 mph off the tee).
Both players seem to be relishing the challenge that Winged Foot has put forth. “It’s almost like they set it up to ease us into this golf tournament [Thursday] and then they were going to show us what it was really like,” said Reed, who carded five birdies in the afternoon wave.
“Anytime the USGA sees you go out and manhandle a golf course at a U.S. Open like we did yesterday, they’re going to toughen it up.”
DeChambeau’s 69 was the low round of the day and it appears the more difficult the course, the better for the uber-confident four-time PGA Tour winner.
“I want it to play as hard as possible,” said DeChambeau, whose round featured five birdies and an eagle. “When I play well in these conditions, it's a lot more enjoyable. I would say that today was a more enjoyable test because it shows who executed the shots the best.”
A Reed-DeChambeau final group on Saturday is sure to provide some fireworks.
Big names stumble as Winged Foot shows its teeth
Three hundred and seventy-five. That was the number of birdies made on Thursday at the U.S. Open. It was a number that not only grabbed the attention of USGA officials but forced them to quickly take action. And that’s exactly what they did. On Friday, Winged Foot played like a completely different golf course, with wind protecting greens that slickened throughout the day.
“I was far from having good stuff out there today, “said round one leader Justin Thomas, who slid down the leaderboard on Friday with a 3-over par 75.
Thomas was able to salvage his round with two birdies on the back nine to crawl back to within two shots of the lead.
“That was a grueling day. It’s hard to put into words. It’s the U.S. Open. It’s what we expect, it’s what we’re here for. That’s what makes it fun, is the grind.”
The entire field looked like they’d been through the ringer as the sun set on Mamaroneck, N.Y. on Friday as only six players are below par heading into the weekend.
“The hole locations were definitely a lot harder today,” said Matthew Wolff, who stands at even par after a second round 74. “The rough is still really thick. I don't think they're planning on cutting it. The greens are only going to get firmer, and the scores are only going to get higher.”
Was this Phil Mickelson’s final U.S. Open?
Following a completely disappointing 36 holes in his return to the U.S. Open at Winged Foot, Phil Mickelson was asked if he’s given any thought to this being his final U.S. Open.
“I don’t know.” replied a somber Mickelson who backed up an opening-round 79 with a 74 to miss the cut at 13-over par.
This was supposed to be Mickelson’s shot at redemption. A chance to conquer the demons that have followed him for 14 years since his 72nd hole meltdown at the 2006 U.S. Open at Winged Foot. One last legitimate chance to fill a gaping hole in his career resumé.
At 50 years old, one has to question whether a U.S. Open golf course and setup is simply too much for Mickelson to handle. He hasn’t contended in the championship since finishing 2nd in 2013, his sixth runner up finish.
“I find that I’ve been playing very well at home, and I get out here where the penalty for a mis-hit is severe, and I find myself getting a little tight and playing some of my worst golf.” said Mickelson, who carded 14 bogeys and just 3 birdies over two days at Winged Foot. “That’s something I’ve got to work on and fix. When I go back home, I don’t have the stress and I seem to play just fine, but I’ve got to be able to bring it out here under these conditions.”
MC, T-52 and T-48. Those have been Phil’s last three U.S. Open Championships. Will we see Lefty next year at Torrey Pines? My gut still says yes.
Two things to keep an eye on in Round 3
-Can dark horse pick Jason Kokrak put himself in position to win on Sunday? Kokrak is a seasoned veteran not only in search of his first major title, but his first career victory of any kind. The big bombing 35-year-old has put together rounds of 68 and 71 and finds himself just 3 shots back of the lead at -1.
-Will world number one Dustin Johnson play himself back into contention? After struggling on day one, DJ put together a solid morning round of 70 and now stands seven strokes back of the lead. Johnson is lying in the weeds and waiting to pounce. A sub-par round on Saturday could easily propel him up the leaderboard.