From warring factions to a war of attrition. A US Open broke out at the US Open on Friday, with that welcome sense of familiarity supplying at least a brief distraction from all matters to do with a breakaway tour. Every golfer in a wonderfully congested field, even those who made the cut by the skin of their chinos, will have reasonable aspirations of winning the penultimate men’s major of the year.
As Brookline bared teeth, the best in the world clung on for dear life. Rory McIlroy needed three attempts to find the green from thick fescue adjacent to the putting surface at the 3rd. The Northern Irishman’s converted double bogey putt, from 22ft, could prove hugely significant as this major hurtles towards a conclusion. Minimizing errors can matter more than swashbuckling golf in this domain.
“I stayed patient,” McIlroy said. “I knew I was going to give myself chances if I just hit the ball the way I have been hitting it. Today was a really good example of just having a good attitude.”
At four under par after a battling 69, McIlroy sits one adrift of Collin Morikawa and Joel Dahmen. Given how easily things could have imploded three holes in for McIlroy, he will be wholly satisfied with this position – while being well aware, of course, of how dangerous Morikawa in particular is. McIlroy covered holes 12 to 17 in three under par. Putting, often criticized, has been a key McIlroy strength this week.
The 66 delivered by Morikawa was the performance of the second round. Morikawa, whose calm approach is so beneficial in this environment, is seeking a third major win in 11 starts. An eagle putt at the 8th, his 17th, shot wide of the hole from five foot, stunning the reigning Open champion, but a birdie was sufficient for him to edge ahead of the field. Morikawa miscued his second shot to the final hole but left a subsequent chip within tap-in range. This marks Morikawa’s lowest two-round score in a US Open. Dahmen would be sole leader, but for a 9ft birdie putt at the last as squeezed agonizingly past the hole.
Jon Rahm, the defending US Open champion who played in Morikawa’s company, lurks with intent at minus four. The Spaniard added a 67 to day one’s 69. Rahm’s touch heading into this tournament was widely overlooked.
Hayden Buckley, the world No 259, is the outlier on this leaderboard. Buckley has featured in only one major prior to this one, the US Open of 2021 where he missed the cut. Back-to-back rounds of 68 for four under show Buckley has not thus far been overawed by the sense of occasion. Aaron Wise and Beau Hossler – who made a birdie from a greenside bunker at the 9th, his last – complete the minus four quintet.
Scottie Scheffler was chugging along peacefully before holing out from the rough for an eagle at the 14th. Scheffler collected another shot at the 16th, meaning he is very much part of the equation at minus three. Scheffler, who won the Masters, continues to go about his business while creating minimal fuss, this while being the top-ranked golfer in the world.
“I feel like I’m kind of an under-the-radar person,” Scheffler said. “I don’t really feel like there’s much chatter going around with me. Rory won last week, Tiger was at the PGA.
“I’ve been No 1 in the world for a while now and it doesn’t really feel like it, so I kind of like just under the radar. I can show up and do my thing and then go home and rest.”
Matthew Nesmith, Brian Harman, Patrick Rodgers and Nick Hardy matched the 54-hole score of Scheffler. Matt Fitzpatrick’s 70 means he is one shy of Scheffler and company. The Yorkshireman bemoaned a poor putting performance. Sam Burns, who is chasing a third win of 2022, is alongside Fitzpatrick at minus two.
Brooks Koepka improved on a Thursday 73 by six shots. At even by he has strong hopes of what would be a third US Open triumph. “I don’t come here hoping for second place,” said a typically bullish Koepka. “I think if you are a good player, you want to come in here and win. That’s why everybody is teeing it up. Nobody has a goal of just making the cut or anything like that.
“I’m pretty confident, but I feel like everybody should be confident in themselves. People hate confidence. That’s why people aren’t a big fan of me.” Koepka’s cage seems forever rattled.
Those who missed the cut included Tommy Fleetwood and Viktor Hovland. The latter played his closing 11 holes in nine over par when en route to a 77. Phil Mickelson also, and unsurprisingly bowed out early, at plus 11.
It seems as if things will never be the same again for the six-times major winner, once such a great manipulator of public sentiment. His looked an utterly joyless 36 holes.