Rose leads US Open by two midway through 2nd round

Rebecca BRYAN

Pebble Beach (United States) (AFP) - Justin Rose was in the "perfect spot" Friday after a one-under par 70 gave him a two-shot lead in the second round of the US Open at Pebble Beach.

His nearest rival in the clubhouse was Aaron Wise, who was on five-under 137 after an even-par 71.

Two-time defending champion Brooks Koepka was on four-under 138 after his second straight 69.

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"I'll say my short game has been really, really strong this week," said Rose, who launched his challenge with a six-under 65 on Thursday that matched the lowest US Open round ever posted at Pebble Beach.

"I've made a lot of putts inside 10 feet. I've managed my game really well. I've always given myself an opportunity to salvage something out of every hole I've played. And I haven't compounded any mistakes so far."

Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy, former British Open champion Louis Oosthuizen and Northern Ireland's Graeme McDowell -- who won the 2010 US Open at Pebble Beach -- were among the late starters trying to knock Rose off the top of the leaderboard.

The Englishman said even if that happened he'd be more than satisfied with his first two days' work on the California coast.

"At this point there's not a lot to worry about," he said. "It's the perfect spot after two days."

Koepka, trying to become just the second golfer to win three straight US Open titles, said much the same.

He teed off on 10 and was even through nine holes with one birdie and one bogey. He put together back-to-back birdies at six and seven to inch up the leaderboard.

"I know you just need to be hanging around on the weekend," said Koepka, who wasn't dismayed at the number of putts that failed to drop in his round.

"As long as they're good putts it's fine," he said. "You never know what's going to happen tomorrow. They might all fall."

On a misty morning on the Monterey Peninsula, Rose opened with five straight pars before his first birdie of the day at the par-four 15th and he stretched his lead to three shots when he got up and down for birdie from a greenside bunker at the 18th.

After a putt to save par circled the cup and failed to drop at the first he stuck his approach to four feet for birdie at the second.

Rose said a mental error led to his other bogey of the day, after his tee shot sailed right and over the cliff at the fourth.

"It's just one of those awkward holes," Rose said. "It's a double tee box. And the guys were teeing off on 17, and we were doing that rotation, they'd hit one, we hit one. I just kind of felt a little out of my routine.

"The momentum stopped a little bit for me, which is a shame, because I felt like three, four, five, six, seven there's some potential birdie holes ... but managed to put it behind me -- two good pars on eight and nine is a good way to close out your round."

- Woods stumbles late -

Playing partner Tiger Woods, in contrast, stumbled to a bogey-bogey finish.

The 15-time Grand Slam champion had kept a clean card until then, although he'd only managed one birdie with a 10-foot putt at 11 -- his second hole of the day.

"I missed a couple," Woods said, but added that many of his putts for birdie were from unfavorable positions above the hole.

"It's so important to be below the hole," said Woods, who insisted despite his one-over 72 for an even par total of 142 he was "still in the ball game."

Birdies remained plentiful among the early rounds, but few low scores emerged as Pebble Beach occasionally showed its bite.

England's Ian Poulter made a quadruple bogey eight at the par-four 12th, needing two strokes to advance the ball less than a foot in tangled rough as he headed toward a missed cut at four-over par.

Reigning British Open champion Francesco Molinari was five-under with two to play when he put his second shot at the eighth -- his penultimate hole -- into deep cliff-side grass on the way to a double-bogey.

American Chesson Hadley had three birdies in his first five holes to reach six-under before a double-bogey at the 15th. He finished with a one-under 70 to join the group at four-under that also included Chez Reavie and Matt Kuchar -- who capped his round with an eagle at 18.

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