And on the second day of the 120th U.S. Open, Winged Foot punched back.
One day after the venerable West Course yielded a surprising 21 scores below par in the first round, just three players managed to break par in Friday’s second round.
In a span of 24 hours, this championship reset itself back to what it was expected to be in the first place: A grueling bloodbath of bogeys, doubles and “others.’’
So, as it heads into the weekend, the leaderboard that had 21 scores in red numbers after Thursday now has just six players below par.
Patrick Reed, with a birdie on his final hole of the day, leads at 4-under after shooting 70 on Friday. Bryson DeChambeau, who posted one of those three rounds below par Friday (a 2-under 68) is one shot back at 3-under.
Harris English, Rafa Cabrera-Bello and Justin Thomas, who was the first-round leader at 5-under, are all 2-under and two shots off the lead. Jason Kokrak (71) is 1-under.
The rest of the remaining field is over par, with the cut falling at 6-over.
The conditions at Winged Foot were more challenging than they were the day before, which featured no wind and warmer temperatures. Friday was windier and cooler and the pin positions were more aggressive than they were on Thursday.
It all added up to the struggle we know and love the U.S. Open to be.
“I felt like I played my ass off [on Thursday and I barely shot under par , and today really felt like a U.S. Open,’’ Xander Schauffele said after shooting 72 on Friday to stand at even par.
“I’m confident now, after seeing what was out there this afternoon, over par will win this tournament,’’ Adam Scott said after shooting 74 to stand at 5-over.
“It feels like the way the golf course is changing, is turning, that anybody who makes the cut has the opportunity to win this championship,’’ said Tiger Woods, who finished 10-over and missed the cut. “It’s going to be a hell of a test this weekend.’’
There are plenty of high-profile players still in contention with 36 more holes to play — 27 players within seven shots of Reed’s lead, including world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy (both 3-over).
Reed’s even-par was the round of the day because he saved so many pars and held it together at the top of the leaderboard while playing in the most difficult conditions with his afternoon tee time.
“I feel ready to go out and put myself in position hopefully tomorrow to have a chance late on Sunday,’’ Reed said. “The biggest thing is I feel like the game is where it needs to be.’’
Reed is a scrapper, seemingly made for what the U.S. Open asks of a player.
“I love the grind,’’ he said. “I love when it’s hard, when you have to be creative on all different golf shots.’’
He will be paired with DeChambeau in the final group Saturday, saying, “I always enjoy playing with Bryson.’’
“Completely different,’’ Reed said. “He sends it to the moon. I hit it underneath the trees, he hits it over the trees.’’
Woods, a three-time U.S. Open winner, was one of many high-profile Winged Foot victims, as was Phil Mickelson.
In first 71 major championships the 44-year-old Woods played, he missed the cut only three times. He’s now missed the cut in eight of the last 15 majors he’s played.
Mickelson, who came to Winged Foot looking for redemption from his 2006 U.S. Open collapse, limped back to California at 13-over. Collin Morikawa, the PGA Championship winner last month, missed the cut by one shot. Defending champion Gary Woodland was a trunk-slammer Friday, headed home. Jordan Spieth shot 81 and finished 14-over.
So, after a soft day Thursday, this turned to be was a proper U.S. Open struggle after all — the kind many golf fans relish.
“I think it’s relatable to a lot of players out there,’’ DeChambeau said. “They struggle with their game and they don’t hit the greatest shots, and they like seeing carnage.’’
DeChambeau then said he planned to go back to his hotel and watch the rest on TV like every other golf fan. Asked if he’ll laugh or sympathize, he said, “Sympathize. No, I’m not laughing at them. I won’t go there.’’
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