Big names drive off . . . and exit car park
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