Johnson in cruise control at U.S. Open with four-shot lead
June 15, 2018
By Cameron Morfit, PGATOUR.COM
SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y. – Dustin Johnson shot a 4-under 67 in the cold rain, then watched the tournament on TV in the afternoon as the sun emerged, the wind died, and Shinnecock Hills turned almost friendly late in the second round of the 118th U.S. Open.
Johnson takes a four-shot lead over Charley Hoffman (69) and Scott Piercy (71) into the weekend, when he will try to win his second U.S. Open in the last three years. Click here to read more about Johnson's performance through two rounds.
“I felt like today was really solid,” Johnson said, “in some tough conditions.”
Those conditions were but a memory by late afternoon, and many in the chase pack are feeling good about themselves after taking advantage of the sumptuous summer weather. One day after there were only five scores of par or better, that number soared to 23 in the second round.
Is it over? Perhaps not with so many players riding so much momentum.
“Yeah, I mean, obviously, you don't want to be that many back, but it's a U.S. Open, so disaster's always around the corner,” said Brooks Koepka, the defending champion, who birdied six of his last 11 holes to shoot 66 and was at 1 over, five back.
Tommy Fleetwood also shot 66, tied for the best round of the day, and also was at 1 over along with Justin Rose (70), Henrik Stenson (70) and Ian Poulter (72).
Rickie Fowler (69) and Russell Henley (73) are six shots back at 2 over.
“I left a lot out there on the greens,” Fowler said. “Had a lot of good looks and just couldn't get them to go. So hopefully, that means we're just saving them for the weekend.”
Is it over? Perhaps not with disaster lurking around every turn at Shinnecock.
“I mean, all it takes is one shot in the fescue, and you could be in there for a while,” said Koepka, who experienced the wrath of the rough with some wayward driving early Friday.
Johnson, who last fall took a six-shot lead into the last round of the World Golf Championships-HSBC Champions but lost, had a near disaster after driving into the long stuff at Shinnecock on Thursday, but 2002 PGA Championship winner and TV commentator Rich Beem found his ball.
Several players enjoyed big bounce-backs Friday, including fan favorite Phil Mickelson, who bounced back from an opening-round 77 with a 69 to get to 6 over.
“I played a lot better,” Mickelson said. “We got lucky with the conditions, getting much easier. Our wave of tee times was significantly easier, and it shows how impressive Dustin Johnson is playing because he played in much more difficult conditions and he's beating everybody by a lot.”
Good feelings abounded amongst those who enjoyed big comebacks. Haotong Li shot 79-68 to make the cut, and American Tyler Duncan went 77-67.
“There’s nobody more confident here than me,” said Koepka (75-66).
For a while the chase pack had a decidedly European feel, and Stenson said the pea soup weather at times made him feel like he was playing an Open Championship.
Johnson, though, is reminding us that he’s a threat on every type of course, in every condition.
The leader played the first two rounds with Tiger Woods and Justin Thomas just days after taking back the No. 1 ranking at the FedEx St. Jude Classic. While Shinnecock is dissimilar to TPC Southwind, Johnson hasn’t lost a step. He hit 12 of 14 fairways, many times with his driver, to power his way across a course that played even longer than its stated yardage of 7,440.
“Dustin was in complete control of what he's doing,” Woods said. “He's hitting the ball so flush and so solid. I know it's windy, it's blustery, it was raining early, but he's hitting right through it.”
Johnson and Piercy will go off in the last twosome at 3:10 p.m. ET Saturday. The four-stroke margin could wind up being meaningful, or it could disappear in an instant.
No one was conceding the victory just yet.
FLEETWOOD MAKES MOVE ... With the wind and spitting rain, Tommy Fleetwood was only halfway through his round when he began anticipating being done. He survived, then he thrived, making three birdies in his last five holes for a 4-under 66, the best round of the week and enough to get him in contention after an opening 75. “It was windy and it was cold and the rain was coming down,” Fleetwood said. “It was literally counting holes down and trying to survive and make pars. Brightened up a little bit, and then I made some birdies towards the end.” A four-time winner on the European Tour who came into this week ranked 12th in the world, Fleetwood was 6 over for his first 15 holes Thursday. Now he’s just five behind the 36-hole leader after making putts and reeling off six birdies on an extremely difficult Shinnecock Hills course Friday, one made even tougher by the elements. “You have to keep going,” Fleetwood said. “I made a bunch of bogeys on that back nine in a row (Thursday), made one birdie in the last three, and then get a round like today and you're back in it.”
FURYK FIGHTS HARD FOR 73 ... Jim Furyk, 48, hasn’t played well as he prepares to take on the Ryder Cup captaincy in France, but his second-round 73 has him at 4 over and in the mix again at Shinnecock. The 2003 U.S. Open champion said he didn’t drive the ball well, which is normally one of his strengths, but, “I made a lot of good, solid par putts and was able to keep the round going.” A few of the pars he described as “magical.” (Not normally a Furyk word.) This, despite being caught completely off-guard by the bad weather. “No one in our group had an umbrella or a rain suit,” he said. “… When we were getting up this morning there was a zero percent chance of rain. I think when we got here I heard someone say it jumped to 15 percent. And then it rained for two hours.” Like other medium-length hitters, Furyk reported struggling to reach some of the longer par-4s. “Into that damp breeze, and with the rain, the ball was going absolutely nowhere,” he said.
JUSTIN THOMAS – FedEx Cup No. 1 and world No. 2 fought hard while playing alongside Johnson and Woods, making short birdie at the par-3 seventh hole to give himself some wiggle room in making the cut. Signed for a second-round 70 to go into the weekend at 4 over.
JORDAN SPIETH – Bounced back from first-round 78 with four late birdies in a row to get inside the cut line, then finished bogey-bogey to shoot 71 and miss by a shot
SERGIO GARCIA – With a new caddie on the bag shot a second-round 79 and at 14 over has no hopes of making the weekend.
JON RAHM – Never looked comfortable at Shinnecock and struggled to a 77 (+15) to become the second member of the Spanish Armada group, after Garcia, to miss the cut by a mile.
TIGER WOODS – Butchered the first hole again, his double-bogey 6 making him 5 over there in two days on the way to a second-round 72 to finish +10. Likely to miss the cut.
QUOTABLESHe definitely didn't have it, but, really, he didn't play that poorly.When we were getting up this morning there was a zero percent chance of rain. I think when we got here I heard someone say it jumped to 15 percent. And then it rained for two hours.
Longest drive: Paul Casey hit one 360 yards.
Driving accuracy: Both Kiradech Aphibarnrat and Michael Hebert hit all 14 fairways Friday. Hebert shot a second-round 73 but missed the cut. Aphibarnrat is T58 at 8 over par after shooting 72 on Friday.
Greens in regulation: Tyler Duncan (67), Haotong Li (68), Rory McIlroy (70) and Will Zalatoris (71) all hit 17 greens Friday. Duncan is T14 at 4 over par. Li is T45 at 7 over. McIlroy and Zalatoris both missed the cut.
Strokes Gained: Putting: Patrick Rodgers gained 4.6 strokes on the greens Friday. He shot a second consecutive 72 and is T14.
Low round: Tommy Fleetwood and Brooks Koepka are both T4 at 1 over par after shooting 4-under 66s on Friday.
Easiest hole: The 583-yard, par-5 fifth hole play to a 4.89 stroke average, surrendering 46 birdies against 22 bogeys and one “other.”
Hardest hole: The 499-yard, par-4 third hole played to a 4.64 stroke average. There were only four birdies on the hole Friday.