Big names drive off . . . and exit car park

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - - SPORT -

AN 11-year-old golf course shaped from Wis­con­sin pas­ture­land was sure to bring some­thing dif­fer­ent to the U.S. Open. But this might have been more than any­one was ex­pect­ing.

The four players tied for the lead — Paul Casey, Brooks Koepka, Brian Har­man and Tommy Fleet­wood — cre­ated the largest 36-hole log­jam in 43 years at the U.S. Open. None has won a ma­jor, and nei­ther have the next 14 players be­hind them.

On the long­est course ever for a ma­jor, the cut was the low­est at the U.S. Open since 1990.

And for all the birdies and blun­ders at Erin Hills, the most com­pelling im­age yes­ter­day came from the park­ing lot, where one star af­ter an­other left town af­ter miss­ing the cut. Dustin John­son, Rory McIl­roy and Jason Day.

It was the first time since the world rank­ings be­gan in 1986 that the top three players missed the cut in any ma­jor. Hen­rik Sten­son. Alex Noren. Jon Rahm. Justin Rose. Adam Scott. Eight of the top 12 players in the world won’t be around for the week­end at Erin Hills, leav­ing a tour­na­ment as open as the land on which it was built.

Casey chopped his way to a triple bo­gey, only to re­spond with five straight birdies that car­ried him to a one-un­der 71 and make him the first to post at seven-un­der 137. He set the target early un­der warm sun­shine, and even as the wind ta­pered in the af­ter­noon, no one could catch him.

Koepka had the lead un­til he turned a birdie chance into a bo­gey on the par-5 first hole af­ter mak­ing the turn.

He didn’t make a birdie the rest of the way and had to set­tle for a 70.

They were joined by Har­man and Fleet­wood, who each had a 70. Right be­hind was a trio of players that in­cluded Rickie Fowler, who went 28 holes be­fore mak­ing his first bo­gey and then went three holes with­out mak­ing a par.

Fowler shot a 73 and was still very much in the hunt at a sec­ond straight ma­jor.

The four-way tie was the most af­ter two rounds in a U.S. Open since Winged Foot in 1974, back when the names were more fa­mil­iar for a ma­jor. Ray­mond Floyd, Arnold Palmer, Gary Player and Hale Ir­win, who went on to win his first ma­jor.

The last six ma­jors have been won by first-timers, and that cy­cle has a good chance to con­tinue.

“To­mor­row will be a very cool ex­pe­ri­ence,” Fleet­wood said.

“Any­thing can hap­pen.”

Brooks Koepka plays out of a bunker; (right) Rory McIl­roy shows his dis­ap­point­ment; and (be­low) Dustin John­son tees off as Jor­dan Spi­eth and Martin Kaymer watch. Pic­tures: Getty

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