‘Captain America’ shoots 70 and holds 1-stroke lead at 4 under as only 3 players break par while Winged Foot steps on a few necks
It was merely a momentary masquerade. Winged Foot ripped off its mask, bared its teeth and relentlessly chewed up most of the field Friday in the second round of the U.S. Open. After so many players finished under par after Thursday’s play, the forced march backward toward an aggregate of even par – or worse – has begun.
Patrick Reed, the Ryder Cup’s Captain America and golf’s ultimate fighter, holds the 36-hole lead at the 120th Open at Winged Foot’s West Course, at 4-under 136. His exquisite get-out-of-jail short game and 50 putts for two rounds contributed to a second-round 70 to go with a Thursday 66 (scores).
Bryson DeChambeau followed at 3-under 137 with rounds of 69-68, and Justin Thomas, the first-round leader, joined Harris English (68-70) and Rafa Cabrera Bello (68-70) at 2 under. Jason Kokrak (68-71) was the only other player under par, at 1 under and in solo sixth place.
“Any time you play in the U.S. Open, you know that you're going to have one of those days that things just aren't quite going your way,” said Reed, the 2018 Masters champion. “Whether it's hitting quality golf shots or anything like that, and I felt like today was that day.
“I felt like I left a decent amount of shots out there, felt like I was a little loose with some shots off the tee and also irons, and to be able to feel like that and come out and shoot even par around a day like today, it's definitely a positive and makes you feel good going into the weekend.”
Thomas was one of a number of players who was beaten about the head and shoulders by Winged Foot. After leading with 65 on Thursday, he hit only three fairways on Friday and limped home with 73. Rory McIlroy, who shot 67 in the first round, was squashed with 76.
Thomas Pieters, who got to 6 under for the championship early Friday when he birdied two of his first five holes, shot 6-over 41 on the back nine. He stood at even-par 140, tied for seventh with Xander Schauffele, Matthew Wolff, Brendon Todd and Hideki Matsuyama.
When the U.S. Open was postponed from its original June date, Steve Rabideau and his crew were disappointed after the amount of work they put in to prepare the West Course to be one of the toughest tests in the U.S. for the best players in the world.
“Basically, the one thing we have left is showcasing Winged Foot, showcasing the golf course," Rabideau, the club’s director of golf courses, told the Rockland/Westchester (N.Y.) Journal News in early September. "That’s been driving us to make this one of the hardest U.S. Opens they will ever play.”
Rabideau proudly picked a winning score of 8-over 288 before the tournament, and he must have been gritting his teeth after so many of the world’s best players got around A.W. Tillinghast’s 1923 masterpiece – and Rabideau’s baby – in such relative ease.
“I’m sure the [superintendent] wanted to crank the SubAir [subterranean greens-drying system] on and leave it on all night,” said Schauffele, who shot 2-under 68 in the first round but fought his way to a 72 on Friday. “But with the wind blowing right now, it’s sort of a topical SubAir. I expected it to be more difficult, and it sure was.”
Friday had three ingredients that Thursday did not: sunshine, low humidity and a northeast wind upwards of 20 mph in the afternoon, which turned the greens firm and toasty. Plus, the USGA cooked up some tricky hole locations. All of which made it more difficult – but not impossible – to get the ball close to the hole.
The result was that after 21 under-par scores in the first round, only three players – DeChambeau (68), Bubba Watson (69) and Matsuyama (69) – broke 70 in the second round. DeChambeau and Watson played in the morning half of the draw.
“The hole locations were definitely a lot harder today,” said Wolff, who shot 4-under 66 in the first round and 4-over 74 in the morning wave on Friday. “The greens are starting to firm up. The afternoon is going to have it really tough. And the wind; the wind was not only out of a different direction, but it was also blowing about three times as hard as yesterday.”
DeChambeau, who is bound to be watched closely by the USGA with the distances he’s hitting the ball off the tee, ended his 68 with an eagle on the par-5 ninth hole after a 380-yard drive and a 179-yard pitching wedge to 6 feet.
DeChambeau is deliberately ditching convention, which commands that fairways are king at a U.S. Open – especially at Winged Foot – by hitting driver as hard and as far as he can, 4-plus-inch rough be damned. The results speak for themselves. And, as he is wont to do, DeChambeau is giving credit to science.
“So, for me, my 47-degree [wedge] flies normally 145 [yards],” he said. “Last night I was hitting shots and it was flying 155. That's what we were on the normalizing mode [on his launch monitor] with that wind. And we just didn't calibrate correctly. So, I was flying everything 10 yards long consequently with my wedges. And we recalibrated all of them today, and I felt like they worked out really well today.”
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