Gary Woodland usurps the US Open lead with McIlroy and Koepka lurking behind

Gary Woodland fired a record-equalling 65, the second in two days, to emulate Tiger Woods and Justin Rose. That earned him a two-stroke advantage at the halfway stage. 79 golfers made the cut at 2-over 144, courtesy a late bogey by Martin Kaymer that drew in a good lot of 24 eagerly waiting golfers.

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Gary Woodland - USGA Images

15 June 2019: Pebble Beach gave with one hand and snatched with the other as golfers went up and down the seesaw struggle on the Monterey Peninsula in California. The US Open started to take on exciting contours with myriad possibilities promising to unravel themselves in a weekend that could yet turn into one of the big highlights of the season.

HERO SUPPORTS GOLFThe 65s continued to flow unabated with Gary Woodland putting his hand up on Friday to emulate that feat by Tiger Woods in 2000, which seemed like a rare bolt of thunder until Justin Rose emulated it on Thursday, and then lightning struck a second time, when Woodland read the lines on a 50 footer to perfection, navigating to the centre of the cup like an expert sailor who could see the highway on rough seas.

Earlier in the day, Rose reached the clubhouse safely retaining the lead at 7-under after making an undulating 70 in the second round. Louis Oosthuizen matched the Englishman with a 70 of his own to remain in the strike zone at 6-under 136.

Tiger Woods - Round 2 - USGA Images
Tiger Woods – Round 2 – USGA Images

While Woods’ epic 15-stroke victory in the US Open is widely celebrated, many do not remember as much of his heroics at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am during the same season. Tiger worked his way to victory from seven shots back with just seven to play, as remarkable a turnaround as any in the history of the PGA TOUR.

He might need something similar here after signing off with a pair of bogeys at the end of his second round. He is even after making a 72 on Friday in a sedate trek around this iconic course. He struck a lone birdie on his second hole, the eleventh and made 15 straight pars before conceding shots on the last two holes.

Woods wasn’t too perturbed at being nine strokes behind. “Yeah, right now I’m still in the ballgame,” said Woods. “There are so many guys with a chance to win. We’ve got a long way to go, and, you know, we’ll see how it shapes up for tomorrow.”

“I’m a little hot right now,” Woods confessed. “Not a very good finish. I had a couple opportunities there. I missed a couple. But overall I kept leaving myself above the hole. And unlike yesterday, when I missed it I missed the correct spots below the hole, today I never had that many looks from below the hole. And the one I did have, I made at 11. It’s just a matter of leaving the ball in the right spots.”

 
Rory McIlroy - USGA Images
Rory McIlroy – USGA Images

Aaron Wise remained at five-under with an even 71, tied in fourth with Rory McIlroy. Wise made five birdies but a double at the seventh and a bogey at the ninth dampened his prospects.

The Northern Irishman would have been closer to the top, but he suffered a lapse in concentration that broke a bogey-free stretch of 29 holes with a sudden jolt. Rory hadn’t stumbled on the card since making a bogey on his first hole, the tenth on Thursday, but a bogey and double at the 13th and 14th upended his imperious march toward to the top of the leaderboard.

McIlroy recovered quickly though as he made amends with a pair of birdies following that sudden lapse, but he missed a birdie putt at the 17th before reaching home with another par to end the day.

Call him what you may – Mr Money, Mr Consistent – whatever, but he is unfailing in showing up in the higher echelons of international golf, almost unrelenting in some ways. Matt Kuchar was right in the mix going into the weekend, riding a steady pair of 69s, T6 with Chez Reavie, Chesson Hadley, Matt Wallace and defending champion Brooks Koepka.

Koepka is showing up with unerring consistency and he continued his dalliance with major golf leaderboards with a second straight 69 to plant himself firmly in the rearview mirror for a weekend that feels pregnant with thick plotlines.

The four-time major winner was even through the forward nine, starting on the 10th tee. He cancelled out a birdie at the 16th with an immediate bogey, but he betrayed the presence of any nerves in his body with a steely march to the scorer’s hut, punctuated by back to back birdies at 6 & 7 for an elegant 69.

Justin Rose - USGA Images
Justin Rose – USGA Images

There is not much that Phil Mickelson does not have after a hall-of-fame career that has won him pretty much everything that needs to be won. The 48-year-old might trade some of that wealth happily for an elusive success at the US Open. The six-time runnerup craves a piece of his national championship and time is running out.

He won the Masters (2004, 2006, 2010), the Open Championship (2013) and the PGA Championship (2005) and the only thing left to covet is a US Open victory to complete his enviable collection of slamware.

Mickelson is acutely aware of the legacy that stares him and taunts him. Only Gene Sarazen, Ben Hogan, Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods have done the deed thus far, winning all four majors during their storied careers.

Leftie posted a fighting 69 in the second round to reach the weekend at 1-under, with hopes still intact for a miraculous run toward what would be an improbable, if not impossible triumph at home.

Among the amateurs, Brandon Wu is showing enormous pedigree. The young man added a 69 to his opening 71 to go past the halfway marker inside the top twenty, on course for a finish that could remain a lifetime memory.

Viktor Hovland and Chandler Eaton are two shots back with Michael Thorbjornsen the fourth amateur to make the cut this weekend.

A slew of golfers owes their weekend collections to a generous bogey on the final hole (the ninth) by Martin Kaymer that helped as many as 24 golfers make the money rounds on the number at two-over 144. A total of 79 golfers made the cut.

Leading Scores

GaryWoodland           68-65—133 (-9)
Justin Rose                 65-70—135 (-7)
Louis Oosthuizen       66-70—136 (-6)
Aaron Wise                 66-71—137 (-5)
Rory McIlroy               68-69—137 (-5)

 

PGA TOUR Notes

  • Graeme McDowell, who won the 2010 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach, posted a 1-under 70 and is at 3-under 139. The last winner of the U.S. Open over the age of 40 was Payne Stewart (42) in 1999
  • 2016 U.S. Open winner Dustin Johnson is at 2-under 140 after a second-round 69
  • Viktor Hovland, who won the 2018 U.S. Amateur at Pebble Beach, posted a 2-over 73 to drop back to even-par. The only players to win the U.S. Open the year after winning the U.S. Amateur are Bobby Jones (1925, 1926; 1928, 1929) and Jack Nicklaus (1961, 1962)
  • Making his 28th start in the U.S. Open, more than any player in the field, six-time U.S. Open runner-up Phil Mickelson followed a 1-over 72 in round one with a 2-under 69 Friday. He owns five AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am titles, including 2019
  • Of the 15 amateurs in the field, Brandon Wu (-2), Viktor Hovland (E), Chandler Eaton(E) and Michael Thorbjornsen (+2) made the cut
  • Notables who missed the cut: Tony Finau (+4), Ian Poulter (+4), Justin Thomas (+4), Bubba Watson (+8)

 

Bogey-free rounds

R1 (2): Nate Lashley (67), Graeme McDowell (69)

R2 (1):  Gary Woodland (65)

 

Scoring Averages

              Front 9                 Back 9                  Total                    Cumulative

R1:         35.634                  36.922                  72.556                  —

R2:         35.500                  37.071                  72.571                  72.631

              Toughest hole                   Easiest hole

R1:         Par-4 10th (4.449)               Par-5 6th (4.628)

R2:         Par-4 9th (4.327)                 Par-5 6th (4.635)