Scottie Scheffler, Sam Burns contending again at U.S. Open
5 Min Read
Good friends each shot 67 at The Country Club to climb leaderboard
Written by Cameron Morfit @CMorfitPGATOUR
BROOKLINE, Mass. – With all due respect to Francis Ouimet, the 122nd U.S. Open at The Country Club has so far been like a lot of U.S. Opens.
It’s been rife with what the legal profession would call slip-and-falls.
You know a slip-and-fall when you see it. Viktor Hovland reached 2 under Friday (contending) but bogeyed nine of his last 11 holes for a 77 (and missed cut). That’s the idea.
Which brings us to the firm of Scheffler and Burns, as in Scottie and Sam, who are Nos. 1 and 2 in the FedExCup, respectively. It speaks to the difficulty of the U.S. Open that two of the hottest players in the game have essentially battled the course to a draw. Scheffler and Burns each shot 67 in the second round, Scheffler reaching 3 under, tied for the lead after the morning wave, and Burns reaching 2 under.
“I am a little upset he's beat me by one,” said Burns, a three-time PGA TOUR winner this season. “But yeah, it's cool to see him playing well. Obviously, he's had a fantastic year, and it's kind of motivated me to try to play a little bit better and try to keep up with him.”
Added Scheffler, “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.”
What’s interesting about these two friends is not that they don’t slip. They are human, after all, and the U.S. Open knocks everyone off kilter. What’s interesting is that they don’t fall.
Scheffler suffered a lapse at the short fifth hole Friday, laying the sod over his short pitch shot up the hill to the green. It looked like he was trying to kill a snake. “I don’t know,” he said, when asked to explain the bizarre shot. “I just caught it a little fat, I guess.” He bogeyed the hole, and the par-3 sixth. He pressed on.
At 2 over par and seemingly going nowhere, he then went 5 under for his remaining 12 holes, including a hole-out for eagle from the rough well short of the par-5 14th.
Slip and fall? Not here.
“But that's just U.S. Open,” Scheffler said. “It's just hard. I kind of lost focus there on 5 and 6 and then got right back into it and just played really good after that.”
Burns also hit a shot you don’t see very often at this level, a wedge at the par-4 10th hole that barely got airborne and rocketed across the green and into the back bunker. His ensuing double bogey at the 10th erased nearly all the good work he’d done on the front nine.
And yet he, too, pressed on, going 2 under for his last eight. “I don't think there's a lot of letup holes out here,” he said. “You kind of have to be really focused and dialed in on every shot.”
The slip-and-fight of Scheffler and Burns goes a long way to explaining how they’ve clawed their way to the top at this U.S. Open, and how they’ve owned this season. Three weeks ago, they clashed in a playoff at the Charles Schwab Challenge, with Burns coming out on top.
That’s not to say he hasn’t looked up to world No. 1 Scheffler – a four-time TOUR winner this season, including the Masters Tournament – and even picked up a few pointers.
“A little bit around the greens,” Burns said. “I think trying to learn how he hits different shots and kind of how he approaches those shots. I've tried to learn from him on those.”
Scheffler talks so much about flying “under the radar” he can sound like an outtake from “Top Gun: Maverick,” but players aren’t fooled. Brooks Koepka (67, even par), upon being asked about the prospect of winning two majors in a single season, didn’t mince words.
“It's definitely difficult,” said Koepka, who, playing with Scheffler, reached the par-5 14th hole in two and also made eagle. “But he is a hell of a player, so I wouldn't be surprised.”
Nor would it be a surprise if Burns, 25, wins. The best American player never to play for a U.S. Ryder or Presidents Cup team, he will likely rectify that at the Presidents Cup at Quail Hollow in September. In short, the golf world is just now picking up on what his inner circle have known for years.
After Burns won the Sanderson Farms Championship last fall, his older brother Chase told of the day he first put a club in his kid brother’s hands, just to humor their mother.
“I was like, this is going to be a waste of time, he’s 4 years old,” Chase said. “They were U.S. Kids clubs. I took him out there and gave him a couple of pointers. I think he hit an 8-iron or something, and the very first swing he hits a little 70-yard draw.”
“I was like, wow, I bet he couldn’t do that again,” he continued.
And yet he did do it again. And again. Chase ran inside to tell their father.
Greatness on repeat – that’s Scheffler and Burns. Stroke play, match play, West Coast, East Coast, team play – Burns and Billy Horschel finished second at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans – it doesn’t matter. It’s easy to forget that Burns missed three straight cuts in February, and Scheffler didn’t make it to the weekend at the PGA Championship last month. They’re only human.
But while they may slip, they don’t fall – at least not yet. Not under major-championship pressure, not on a course where disaster lurks around every rock outcropping, and not even after hitting a cold chunk or skull. They’re as cool as that little squirrel on the logo here, bobbling but never dropping the acorn.
The Country Club appears to have met its match.
Cameron Morfit began covering the PGA TOUR with Sports Illustrated in 1997, and after a long stretch at Golf Magazine and golf.com joined PGATOUR.COM as a Staff Writer in 2016. Follow Cameron Morfit on Twitter.