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2021 U.S. Open Daily Question: How Far Back is Too Far Back?

Richard Bland and Russell Henley share the lead, and many big names are within five shots. But do players beyond that have hope? Our writers on the scene discuss.

Two rounds of the 121st U.S. Open are in the books, and the current leaderboard features two big surprises, Richard Bland and Russell Henley, tied at the top at 5 under. But not far behind are several big names, including Louis Oosthuizen (4 under), Jon Rahm (3 under) and Xander Schauffele (2 under), plus a pack at even par that includes Brooks Koepka, Bryson DeChambeau, Collin Morikawa and Justin Thomas. And so we ask our two correspondents on the scene in San Diego: 36 holes in, how far back is too back?

Michael Rosenberg, Sports Illustrated: Pretty far back! At 5 under, Brand and Henley are obviously not huge names, and there are only two guys at 4 under. Those two, Oosthuizen and Wolff, are a major champion and a premier young talent, but there is a real chance that to win, you just need to catch the guys who are currently 3 under. So, I think anybody who is 2 over or better should feel like they at least have a shot. There is a cluster of stars who are even par: Koepka, Thomas, DeChambeau, Morikawa. It would not be surprising if any of them wins this. 

Alex Miceli, Morning Read: In 2002, Jose Maria Olazabal made the cut on the number at the Buick Invitational. He was 8 shots back of the leaders at Torrey Pines, and he then shot 67-65 on the weekend to win by one shot over J.L. Lewis and Mark O’Meara, proving that the South course can produce heartache as well as jubilation.

So, a realistic assessment would be that even par or five shots back makes sense. But it’s not out of the realm of possibility that someone at 1, 2 or 3 over par has a chance. Anyone at even par must only jump over 10 players in 36 holes -- that’s a lot for one round, but more than doable over two rounds.

The other variable is that eagles can clearly be made out here, which is not always the case at a U.S. Open. Those can change the dynamic of the championship quickly.