From factions at war to a war of attrition. A U.S. Open exploded at the U.S. Open on Friday, with that welcome sense of familiarity that provided at least a brief distraction from all matters related to a runaway tour. All golfers on a wonderfully congested course, even those who made the cut through the skin of their Chinese pants, will have reasonable aspirations of winning the penultimate male major of the year.
As Brookline showed her teeth, the best in the world clung to her beloved life. Rory McIlroy needed three attempts to find the thick pistachio green adjacent to the putting surface at 3rd. The Northern Irishman’s converted double bogey putt, from 22 feet, could be very significant as this big one moves towards a conclusion. Minimizing mistakes can matter more than sword golf in this area.
“I was patient,” McIlroy said. “I knew he would give me a chance if he only hit the ball like I was hitting him. Today has been a very good example of having a good attitude.”
Four below par after a 69-yard bout, McIlroy is a distance away from Collin Morikawa and Joel Dahmen. Given the ease with which things could have imploded three holes for McIlroy, he will be fully satisfied with this position, although he is well aware, of course, of how dangerous Morikawa is in particular. McIlroy covered holes 12-17 in three under par. The often-criticized inn has been a key strength for McIlroy 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 looking for a third major victory in 11 starts. An eagle putt on the 8th, his 17th, shot out of the hole from five feet, surprising the reigning Open champion, but a birdie was enough to get ahead on the field. Morikawa missed his second shot in the final hole, but left a back chip within reach of the tap-in. This marks Morikawa’s lowest score in two rounds at a US Open. Dahmen would be the only leader, but at last for a 9-foot bird putt as a roaring agonizing beyond the hole.
Jon Rahm, the reigning U.S. Open champion who played in the company of Morikawa, is deliberately hiding at minus four. The Spaniard added a 67 to 69 of the day. Rahm’s touch on the face of this tournament was much overlooked.
Hayden Buckley, the world number 259, is the most atypical of this classification. Buckley has only participated in one major before this, the 2021 U.S. Open, where the cut was lost. The consecutive rounds of 68 for four under the Buckley show have not been impressed so far by the sense of the occasion. Aaron Wise and Beau Hossler, who made a bird from a greenside bunker in the 9th, their last, complete the quintet minus four.
Scottie Scheffler was walking quietly before coming out of the rough for an eagle on the 14th. Scheffler picked up another shot on the 16th, meaning he’s part of the equation minus three. Scheffler, who won the Masters, continues to do his business while creating the slightest commotion, even though he is the best golfer in the world.
“I feel like I’m kind of a person under the radar,” Scheffler said. “I really don’t feel like there’s a lot of talk with me. Rory won last week, Tiger was in the PGA.
“I’ve been number 1 in the world for a while and I really don’t feel like it, so I like to be under the radar. I can show up and do mine and then go home and rest.”
Matthew Nesmith, Brian Harman, Patrick Rodgers and Nick Hardy equalized Scheffler’s 54-hole score. Matt Fitzpatrick’s 70s means he’s a shy Scheffler and company. The Yorkshireman regretted a bad putting performance. Sam Burns, who is aiming for a third victory in 2022, is next to Fitzpatrick at minus two.
Rory McIlroy makes a birdie putt during the second round. Photo: Warren Little / Getty Images
Brooks Koepka improved on Thursday 73 for six shots. In the pair, he has high hopes for what would be a third U.S. Open win. “I don’t come here waiting for second place,” said a typically bullish Koepka. “I think if you’re a good player, you want to come in and win. That’s why everyone gets involved. No one aims to just make the cut or anything like that.
“I’m pretty confident, but I think everyone should have confidence in themselves. People hate confidence. That’s why people aren’t a big fan of me.” Koepka’s cage seems shocked forever.
Those who missed the cut included Tommy Fleetwood and Viktor Hovland. The latter played his 11 closing holes in nine over parity when he headed for a 77. Phil Mickelson also, not surprisingly, retired early, with 11 more.
It seems as if things will never be the same again for the six-time big winner, once such a big manipulator of public sentiment. His seemed about 36 holes absolutely without joy.