Winged Foot punched back with a fury on the second day of the 120th US Open. Rory McIlroy went from a 67 into a 76 and Tiger Woods missed the cut on 10-over. But then, the 15-time major-winner was far from the only player to be floored on an absurdly redrawn canvas.
The test was clearly too easy for the US Golf Association on Thursday, so they decided to make amends with tucked pins and dried-out greens. Mother Nature threw in a few gusts, but they were forecasted and hardly severe, and still carnage threatened to rear its head far too early.
There were 21 players under par after the first round and there are seven in red figures heading into the third round. Generous pin positions - gone. Receptive greens - gone. Entertainment - limited. It was fun whilst it lasted.
Patrick Reed, Captain America no less, leads the way on four-under after a courageous 70 in the more difficult conditions of Friday afternoon. Th 2018 Masters champion is one clear of countryman Bryson DeChambeau, with two more Americans on two-under in Justin Thomas and Harris English, as well as Spain’s Rafa Cabrera Bello.
DeChambeau’s 68 was he day’s best as The Incredible Bulk highlighted that he was not for belittling by the infamous New York layout. With an eagle on his last hole, he emphasised that the only way he intends to crack this toughest nut of a course is with a sledgehammer.
And his final drive of the day said it all - 380 yards.
Yes, is fair to comment that the 27-year-old did not hold back. DeChambeau did not pile on that extra 40lbs over lockdown to look bigger in the mirror, but to whack it further down the fairway and while the rest of the field tried carefully and cautiously to plot its path around the Monster of Mamaroneck - the infamous layout 25 miles north of Manhattan - DeChambeau attempted to barge his way past the subtle nuances.
Maybe that is the wisest method in this bomb-and-gouge era and DeChambeau was certainly not making any apologies. In fairness, it was not just brawn. Realising it would be much colder than on the opening day, he analysed how far he would launch it in the differing conditions by staying on the range late on Thursday night after the sun had gone down. DeChambeau might resemble Captain Caveman, but there is plenty of Erwin Schrödinger thrown in for good measure.
“I was out here last night, knew it was going to be cooler today and I waited and until it was dark and I got some good numbers with my wedges,” he said. “I love figuring out all the numbers.”
DeChambeau recorded five bogeys, but also accumulated five birdies and it was the ninth [his 18th] where he won the ding-dong showdown between man and course with a brutal knockdown. A 557-yarder reduced to a drive, a pitching wedge (from 178 yards) and a six-footer.
“It was a fun way to finish a US Open round,” he said, to the disgust of USGA officials everywhere, before daring to plead with those blood-thirsty organisers to be at their most sadistic this weekend.
“I want this place to play as hard as possible," the world No 9 added, as he eyed his major breakthrough. “I feel like there are so many holes out here that I can take advantage of that some people can't. Now, that doesn't mean that I'm going to win or anything. You've still got to execute, you've still got to hit the driver straight.
“If I'm hitting the driver far but all over the place, you can't make birdies from the rough. So I still have to work on hitting it straight while hitting it far. And that's a unique combo that I'm going to strive for the rest of my life.”
When he is this mood, DeChambeau will venture to areas where even his most wayward drives would not contemplate. The Californian was asked if he could “will” his way to the title.
“That's a great question,” he said. “That’s a question for God. I don't know if you can. I mean, Tiger has been able to do something like that many times before, so I think there is something. But human scientific research does not say that there's anything about that.”
Meanwhile, on Planet Earth, the likes of Dustin Johnson and Lee Westwood were scrutinising the state of play and figuring they were both not sitting that ugly on a three-over halfway total.
In fact, Johnson, the world No 1, sounded quite chipper after a level-par 70. “On this course with the conditions that we're supposed to have the next couple days, I don't feel like I'm out of it,” he said. “I'm going to have to play really well, but I like where I'm at. Two solid rounds and right back in the mix.”
Westwood concurred, after his own 76. “I’m disappointed because I was one-under with three to play and dropped four shots [with a double-bogey on the 16th and bogeys on the 17th and 18th] and those holes are all playing downwind,” the 47-year-old said. "But three-over is by no means out of it.”
Alas, Phil Mickelson is definitely out of it and it must be wondered is this was the 50-year-old’s last US Open round ever, after a record six runner-up finishes and no title. If it proves so, then a 74 for a 13-over total is no way for an American legend to bow out from his national championship.
That's all from me tonight
Was that much more like a US Open or have the USGA once again been too penal with their course set-up? The debate will rage, but Patrick Reed and Bryson DeChambeau were the days big winners. As usual, Reed's short game was a delight. The wheels could easily have come off for Justin Thomas after a double bogey on his 10th but he kept his head to play the last eight holes in two-under. If that is his so-so day out of the way then he will be a big contender this weekend. Until tomorrow.
Reed will be the sole leader
Thomas had to lay up from the rough but did produce a fine pitch to give him an outside chance of a birdie four. From below the hole...just over 10 feet...and he quits on it and leaves it six inches short. That's Thomas in the hutch at two-under. Alongside him, Tiger Woods does finish with a birdie but he has missed the cut.
Just Thomas to go on he ninth
Can he find an eagle to join Reed at four-under? In truth, he would sign up for a birdie.
He leads the US open going into the weekend. Rounds off 66 and 70 built on so much short game brilliance. His playing partner Hideki Matsuyama played extremely well for a 69 to get in at level par.
Thomas' approach on eight runs out of room
Bang on line but with no spin from the semi rough the ball runs through to the first cut at the back of the green. Reed has played a magnificent show from a bunker at the ninth from 30 yards or so and it checked up only four or five feet from the hole. That for birdie and the solo lead at four-under.
Magnificent tee shot on 8th from Thomas
Just a flick with wedge remaining there with a par five to come. On that par five, Reed found rough off the tee and was not able to reach the green in two. Woods also birdied the seventh so he should be able to avoid the ignominy of shooting 80.
Good fightback from Thomas
He has kept his head after that double bogey on the 10th. From more than 25 feet he drains a birdie putt on the par-three seventh to move to two-under.
No birdie for Reed
But no harm done. Tied for the lead walking on to his final hole of the day. Meanwhile, Woods need threes pars to break 80 for his second round.
Excellent from Reed on 8th
Peeled a drive around the corner from left to right and that hit a pin point iron shot around 10 to 12 feet behind the hole. Will have a birdie putt on the way.
A fine round from Harris English
No birdie at the ninth for English but that is a really tidy round of 70 to leave himself well positioned at two-under going into the weekend. Brendon Todd produced a grandstand finish on the same hole, an eagle taking him back to level-par.
But he hands it straight back at the seventh
Reed with an unforced error at the par three. Missed the green left with a nine iron and then left his bunker shot in the rough. To his credit he did get up an down for a bogey four.
Reed rolls it in
Now the leader on his own with three holes to play. He would snap your arm off for three pars.
Reed has a look at birdie on the short par four sixth
Pitched from the rough short and left of the green and it runs 10 feet or so by the hole. 10 consecutive pars for Harris English now and his final hole will be the par five ninth. A decent chance to join the leaders at three-under. Kokrak has signed for a 71 and is in the house at one-under.
Reed drops a shot on the fifth
Once again, it is Reed and early starter DeChambeau tied for the lead. Rafa Cabrera Bello and Harris English sitting pretty on two-under. Jason Kokrak and Justin Thomas the only other players under par.
Thomas does make his par
Keep him within three of Reed coming into the closing stretch.
Almost a chip in from Thomas
Wonderful hands from short of the fourth green, but he will have six feet left for the par. Reed has a putt for par from a similar distance on the way at the fifth, his 14th.
Thomas' latest birdie
Birdie for Thomas at the third
Thomas becomes the fifth player in red figures now and gets back to one-under. Harris English has been rock solid at two-under and was inches away from making it three on the sixth, his 15th.
Another shot goes from Woods after a three-putt at the third. He is now almost certain to miss the cut.
Stunning from Thomas on the third
With a rescue club on the long par three, back into the freshening breeze, he covers the flag with a high fade and will have 10 feet or so back down the hill for birdie.
Another shot goes for Woods at the 2nd
Now nine-over the tournament and well outside the cut line. Thomas went close with a birdie try but makes his four to remain at level par.
Reed well left off the tee at the fourth
Will be tough to reach the green in two on this 476-yard par four. Our leader may be about to take a step back to the field.
They call that a great lag
Body blow for Justin Thomas
A missed fairway on the 1st and he compounded the error by missing the green long and left with his third. Failed to get it up and down and that's a double bogey. There are now just FOUR players under par. DeChambeau will be looking even more smug than usual in his hotel room.
Reed did get up and down - again! - from sand on the second to retain the lead.
How about that from Matsuyama
Reed comes up short at the second, his 11th
Tried to peel a fade to the back right flag but it stalled in the wind and found the bunker. McIlroy is five-over for the day, two-over for the tournament while Woods looks like missing the cut at eight-over unless he can shoot two or three under par on his back nine.
Reed birdies the 1st, his 10th
Once again the American is the sole leader at four-under.
Great imagination from Harris English
Just like yesterday, Woods has fluffed a chip and doubled the 18th for the second successive day
Better news for Thomas who converts his birdie to move within one of the lead.
Cracking approach from Thomas on the 18th
From the semi-rough he hoisted it way into the air , it settles five feet or so from the pin. A chance to get one of his shots back. Woods' bunker shot looked good but span back off the front of the green.
Another bogey from Thomas
He is four over for the day through eight holes. More escapology in the 18th from Reed who stays co-leader as he makes the turn. Woods does well to two putt for par on 17, but then gets unlucky as he runs out of fairway on the dogleg 18th and finds the bunker.
Reed comes up shy on the 18th
The ball rolls all the way back down the false front and it will be a difficult up and down from there. DeChambeau could soon be the sole leader.
Webb Simpson has just eagled the ninth to jump to level par which is inside the top 10.
To the 17th...
Thomas out of position off the tee again - this time to the right - and he has to wedge out into the fairway and will have to get up and down to save par. Woods has found fairway and green.
Woods now hovering on the cut line
Took four to get down from the greenside bunker at 16, and that double bogey takes him back to six-over. Another shot goes for Justin Thomas at the same hole. He is now three-over for the day and two-under for the tournament.
Reed puts a lovely stroke on a par putt at the 17th to try and salvage another gutsy up and down but it slides by. Reed and DeChambeau now the co-leaders at three-under.
Rory McIlroy's card after seven holes today
Tiger Woods grinding away
That's how hard Winged Foot has played today
Largest ever scoring average increase from round 1 to round 2 in the @usopengolf is +2.58 at Pinehurst No. 2 in 1999. We're right at that number today - 2.58 strokes more difficult than round one.— Justin Ray (@JustinRayGolf) September 18, 2020
Thomas is out of position on the 16th
Hooked his driver and is in deep rough, blocked out by huge trees on the corner of the dogleg. Woods got a good break off the tee, running up near a sprinkler head in the rough. He gets a free drop and will not face a second shot from the semi.
Patrick Reed has rolled in a birdie three at the difficult par four 16th to move back to four-under and take the lead on his own. Harris English, starting on the tenth, is level for the day through eight holes which is sterling work.
To the 15th...
Woods missed a ridge in the middle of the green with his approach and left himself a fiendish two-putt for par. Thomas cleans up from more than six feet for par.
Woods' died a sliding left to right par putt into the cup from five feet to stay at four-over.
Another McIlroy bogey
He is back to one-over now, although that is only four shots off the lead. Plenty of holes left for him to close the gap but he needs a few pars to steady the ship.
Reed bogeys the 15th and three-under now has a share for the lead in a freshening wind at Winged Foot. Reed, Thomas, English and Bryson DeChambeau (who has his feet up in the clubhouse) are the four co-leaders. All Americans, as James Corrigan predicted in the piece plugged at the top of the blog.
Thomas drops one at 14
Bogeys are inevitable but that is now two in a row from Thomas. His par attempt was a mighty fine try and hit the hole but it didn't drop. A shot goes for Woods too who will fall back to four-over.
Patrick Reed is your new leader! For the time being.
Patrick Reed short game magic
Rory tumbles back to even par
The pace of play is glacial out there which is not doing Rory any favours. It's a double-bogey at the fourth which puts him three-over for the day after that promising birdie at the first.
Reed salvaged a par at the 14th but Woods and Thomas are both in rough at the 14th.
Thomas drops one at 13
Solid two-putts from Woods, all pars through his first four holes, but Thomas lets a sloppy shot go with a three-putt. His return from five feet grazed the left edge.
Tree trouble for Reed at the fifth
He tried to hit a big hook out of a fairway bunker and clattered into some trees. If Thomas can keeping churning out pars he will certainly have a lead going into tomorrow.
Back at the fourth, McIlroy has gone from sand to rough, still some 60 yards short of the par four in two, and is staring at three straight bogeys.
Back to back bogeys for McIlroy
Missed the green right at the stringent par three third which is playing straight back into the wind. Woods' birdie putt missed at 12 where Justin Thomas also churned out another par.
At the tough par three 13th, Thomas finds the heart of the green, as does Woods who will have an uphill birdie putt.
Fine recovery from Woods at 12
After finding rough from the tee on the par five, he had more than 170 yards left for his third shot into the wind. He flighted the approach beautifully to access the front pin and set up a birdie putt from inside 10 feet.
McIlroy has handed back his birdie at the first
With a bogey five at the second. Patrick Reed with a characteristically doughty up and down at the third to stay tied with Thomas in the driving seat.
Two pars for Thomas and Woods
No fireworks at the 11th but Reed has joined Thomas at five-under with a birdie, and Harris English has also moved to four under. The par five 12th will be a long one for Woods who has pushed his drive into the right rough.
Approaches at the 11th
Woods will have 20 feet for so for birdie after his wedge catches a piece of the front section of the pin. Thomas' wedge spins back off the front of the green and his short game will be tested.
Harris English is a player to watch, one-under through three holes and three-under for the championship.
Great start by McIlroy
He rolls in his birdie putt at the first to move to four-under. At the 11th, Woods shapes a three-wood into the middle of the fairway with a nice fade. Thomas' tee shot looked good but skipped through into the first cut down the right. But it is only a short par four.
The late starters getting going now
Thomas left his approach putt some six or seven feet short, while Woods' pitch ran past the hole from the tight-side of the green. He will have more than 12-15 feet back for a par.
Back on the first Rory McIlroy has fired an iron shot to within birdie range.
Fantastic comeback putt from Tiger at the 10th to save his par. And Thomas follows him in. Two hard-working threes.
Incidentally, Phil Mickelson has finished his second round at +12 and will miss the cut. The career grand slam just wasn't to be and probably never will be.
To the 10th
Difficult par three with a back right pin and the wind into and out of the left. Justin Thomas finds the middle of the green but will have 35 to 40 feet for birdie. Woods up next...his iron shot was right on line but the breeze did not affect it as much as he envisaged. Skips through the back into the rough.
What a finish from DeChambeau
Finishing his round on the par-five ninth, which today is downwind, DeChambeau cut it down to size with a booming drive and pin high nine-iron before converting the eagle putt from six feet. It catapults him up to three-under for the tournament.
Almost time for Tiger
We are waiting for the television coverage to catch up but he is making his way to the 10th tee to start his round.
And then there were 10...
Players under par. Winged Foot a different proposition today. Bryson DeChambeau has done well to hang around at one-under but back-to-back bogeys have seen Dustin Johnson drop back to three-over with one hole to go.
Schauffele with a surprising bogey
Took three from the front left edge of the 17th and drops back to one-under. Brendon Todd and Harris English at two-under have started their rounds with pars.
Rahm with a rare birdie at the seventh
He gets back to one-over which is not what he would have dreamed of at the start of the morning but isby no means disastrous.
Schauffele recovers on the 17th
His ball was sitting down in the first cut of rough but he managed to chase one on to the front edge of the green. That will do nicely. A par-par finish for a tidy round of 79.
Louis Oosthuizen the latest to feel the bite of Winged Foot's finish
Bogeys at the muscular par four 16th and 17th and he falls back to one-under.
Dropped shot for Dustin Johnson at the seventh
Took three from the front edge at the par three. He is two two-over for the championship. Tough days for Tony Finau and surprisingly John Rahm who are both three-over for the day and two-over for the tournament.
As I write that, Finau rolls in a putt at least to birdie the seventh and move to one-over.
An example of Schauffele's excellence
Schauffele looking supremely good
Found the fairway with a three-wood at the difficult dogleg 16th and is just about pin high with his approach. Lurking under the radar at two-under, which might not be far from the lead come the end of the day.
What a run from RCB
Cabrera Bello stiffs his approach at the last and converts the putt to birdie his last four holes and get in the clubhouse at two-under. Lunch will taste sweet - now to sit back and watch the rest of the field struggle this afternoon.
Tiger Woods warming up
He will start on the 10th at 6.27pm. I am not particularly optimistic about his chances today given how many drivers he needs to hit to get around this course and the tough conditions but you never know. One or two good swings and the juices can start flowing again.
Sensational bunker shot from Schauffele at the 15th
That should assure him a par four to stay at two-under which is now in a tie for fifth.
DeChambeau, Finau and Johnson at the short par four sixth
Finau went for the green but pulled his driver, and when you do that the shut clubface always causes the ball to ravel further. It went long and left and ran through into a creek.
Dustin laid up but judged his lob wedge approach well to find the back tier where the hole is located. DeChambeau took the green on with driver and hit a good one into the mouth of green.
Matt Wolff holes a bomb at 12
He is now one of 13 players under par for the championship as he moves to one-over.
Rafa Cabrera Bello back in form
It has been quiet year or more for the Spaniard and there have long been doubts about his putting, but he is just inside the top 10 at one-under with two holes of his second round remaining. Three birdies in four.
Quite the reaction from the American fan
It is a fine recovery from the trees on the fifth to the find the back edge but he has fallen back to one-over. Shots are going like confetti all over the course with Wolff dropping to one-under after a bogey at three.
Rory McIlroy is on the putting green
He will be teeing off at 6.27pm UK time and on a difficult and gusty morning nobody has moved past him.
Bryson's latest birdie
It's not been his week but a great moment from Matt Fitzpatrick
He has slam-dunked his second shot at the par four 15th for an eagle! It gets him back to six-over and gives him a chance of making the cut which we expect to fall at five-over.
Louis Oosthuizen piecing together a nice round
He has birdied the par three 13th and has joined Schauffele on three-under. He has more under par rounds at the US Open than any player on the circuit and is a specialist in the majors.
Birdie for DeChambeau
It was a gorgeous tee shot from the American at the par three third. A low fade that searched out the back right pin and he converts the putt for a two. He bounced back to one-under.
Xander Schauffele stalking the leaders
Other than McIlroy, Schauffele is the only other player on three-under after a birdie at the second. There are no obvious weaknesses in his game and he thrives on the tougher examinations major championships present.
Some great scrambling at the 2nd
Johnson played a delightful stab shot from just a few feet from the green's edge, deliberately hitting behind the ball and letting it release. He saves his par.
Tony Finau also played a nice chip from rough but once again he has a touch of the heebie-jeebies with the putter. His par putt from five feet does not hit the hole and runs another five feet past. Drops back to even par.
Trouble at the second for Finau and DeChambeau
Finau has gone from the fiarway bunker to thick rough on the flag-side of the green, while DeChambeau's attempt to gouge the ball out cannons off a tree and does not make the journey.
Pieters moving in the wrong direction
Three putts from not very far away from Pieters and that's four bogeys on the back nine now. He is back to two-under. Schauffele scrambles well at 10 to save par and maintain his momentum.
Rahm drops a shot on his ninth
Back at 18, Rahm hit an excellent pitch to 10 feet or so but could not get the par putt to drop. He is not one-over for the tournament and two-over for the day. The front nine does yield a few more birdies though, so a chance to get back in red figures.
Johnson battling back
The form player going into this week is under par for the day and one-over for the tournament but has found greenside sand at the first, his 10th. Schauffele passes up an eagle chance at the ninth, but it's the easiest of birdies to get to two-under.
Jon Rahm comes up short on the 18th
The bank short and right of the green is shaved down and severe, and Rahm's approach did not quite have enough gas to make it over it. Will be a tough up and down to stay at one-under for the Spaniard. Looked like he might snap his club across his thigh but he stopped at the vital moment. Thomas Pieters has made another bogey to drop back to three-over.
Some pictures from Winged Foot
Bryson DeChambeau is one-under for the tournament
Let's catch up with the early starters
Thomas Pieters mad a fast start and did get to six-under but has fallen back to four-under after 14 holes. Justin Thomas still has the sole lead and will tee off around 6.30pm UK time.
Matt Wolff is over par after seven holes of his second round but still well positioned at three-under with Tony Finau one shot further back.
One of the big movers this morning is Daniel Berger who produced a front nine of 31 to move from three-over to one-under. He has just bogeyed the 10th however - the toughest hole on the course statistically - to drop back to level par.
Lee Westwood is two-over for the day and one-under for tournament, the same score as much-fancied Jon Rahm and Xander Schauffele who are also out on the course.
Will Winged Foot show its teeth?
Winged Foot was not the fearsome monster we all expected yesterday, with more than 20 players finishing under par thanks to relatively receptive greens and favourable pin positions.
Justin Thomas looked supremely good on his way to a five-under 65, displaying customary power off the tee allied with immaculate distance control on his approaches. Rory McIlroy is a similar style of player, and his accurate driving set him up for a straightforward three-under 67.
McIlroy could be benefiting from the so-called 'nappy factor' as a new father and the same could be said for Thomas Pieters who enjoyed a much-needed return to form with a four-under 66.
"First round of a major you're always anxious to play well and maybe I've overthought it at times," McIlroy said. "I just went out and took what was given to me a little more relaxed and played really nicely.
"I think at a US Open, if you can get off to a good start, you're not chasing as much. And when you chase on US Open golf courses, that's when you can start to make mistakes and compound your errors."
Northernly winds are expected to pick up today and the USGA have the option of turning on the sub-air system to draw the moisture from the greens.
McIlroy and Tiger Woods will get plenty of attention among the later starters but big-hitters Matt Wolff, Dustin Johnson, Tony Finau and Dustin Johnson are already out on the course as well as Pieters.
Woods had a mixed round yesterday, carding only six pars, five birdies, six bogeys and a double bogey in a topsy-turvy round. Woods has not thrived on a long course defended by thick rough for some time, and the cool September conditions in New York are also not ideal for his stiff back. He needs to find a way to keep it on the short grass to ensure he makes the weekend.