Farewell Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Tommy Fleetwood, Sergio García and Jordan Spieth. Welcome to the party Bryson DeChambeau and Patrick Reed.
Further proof that Winged Foot has no interest whatsoever in reputation comes with the addendum that if two of the players jousting for US Open glory were afforded a final 36 holes in front of New York crowds, the past would feature prominently. And noisily. Reed and DeChambeau will instead play with only the weight of golfing history upon their shoulders.
Should DeChambeau prevail at the 120th staging of the national Open of the United States, golf would encounter an epiphany. The Californian, golf’s nutty professor, made no secret of his desire to overpower Winged Foot before a ball was struck. The general response was dismissive, as not unreasonable towards a player who has recorded just one major top 10 in 15 previous starts. DeChambeau’s glacial approach to golf will never render him a crowd favourite. His bullish plan of attack in respect of one of this sport’s most sacred venues? Sacrilege, so far as golf’s traditionalists are concerned. With half of this major gone, DeChambeau is laughing at those who insisted his plan was flawed.
DeChambeau’s second round of 68 moved him to three under par and one shy of Reed. It is safe to say he has a spring in his step. “I feel great,” said DeChambeau. “Confidence is at an all-time high right now. I’m driving it well, the iron play is fantastic, wedging is getting better each and every day and I’m putting it like I know I can. So I’m very happy.”
DeChambeau had exited stage left by the time Reed encountered the most severe of already testing conditions. If the United States Golf Association allowed the cats to play on day one, Friday was payback time. Standing still was a positive. Pin placements were from horror movies.
Amid controversy – lots of it – as attached to an incident in the Bahamas late last year, Reed’s talent level has been forgotten. The Texan almost seems to thrive on featuring as the lead character in golf’s village of the damned. His 70 was topped off by a birdie as achieved from a greenside bunker at the 9th, his 18th. Reed’s short game brilliance has been a recurring theme of the first two US Open days. Even if he had galleries bawling obscenities in his direction over the weekend, it is doubtful the 30-year-old would care.
Rafa Cabrera-Bello and Harris English are two under. Rory McIlroy wobbled to a 76 which leaves him seven from the leaderboard’s summit. Justin Thomas’s position is far more promising. Thomas holed out from the fringe of the 7th – his 16th – green en route to a 73. He is two under and still a key protagnonist. Thomas Pieters is even par following a 74. Dustin Johnson, the world No 1, rebounded impressively from a first round 73 to post a 70. “I don’t feel like I’m out of it,” said Johnson, perfectly fairly. “I’m going to have to play really well, but I like where I’m at.”
Mickelson added a 74 to a 79 to comfortably miss the cut at 13 over par. His dreams of winning the US Open, thereby completing a clean sweep of majors, are surely over. “I think this is a terrific place to play golf,” said the 50-year-old. “I’m appreciative of the opportunity to have been able to compete here and I’m disappointed I didn’t play better. I’m going to head home and take a few weeks off and go from there.”
Woods, similarly out of sorts, must refocus for a Masters defence in November. This marked just the 22nd missed cut of Woods’s professional career, half of that number arriving in majors. Gary Woodland, having posted back-to-back 74s, admitted he had launched a tournament defence amid physical troubles.
“I’ve got a torn labrum in my left hip,” said Woodland. “I’ve got a lot of pain in there. I’ve been fighting through it but it gets to a point where you’re playing against the best players in the world and you just can’t play with pain. I’ve played with pain my whole life but it’s getting a little tough.” Woodland will at least be afforded this weekend to rest.
Spieth was 14 over par by the time he exited Winged Foot. Still only 27, Spieth appears unrecognisable from the player who threatened to dominate golf five years ago. US Opens amplify every weakness but Spieth’s tailspin is one of sport’s sadder tales of recent times.