Thoughts at the halfway point of the 2023 U.S. Open:
It had to happen, the United States Golf Association would make sure the course would own the players, not the other way around.
So after Rickie Fowler (TaylorMade TP5) and Xander Schauffele (Callaway Chrome Soft X) both set U.S. Open records with eight-over par rounds on the first day at the Los Angeles Country Club, their sizzling performances came back down to reality on Friday.
That said, Fowler still registered a two-under par, tying a U.S. Open record of 10-under par after two rounds, while Schauffele shot even-par and is only two back.
You just know that based on U.S. Open history, the last two days will all be about survival.
But that’s par for the course, so to speak.
If Fowler wins, it will make for a good story. He came into the tournament ranked 45th in the world, having risen up from 103 at the end of last year. He had been in a serious free fall since ranked seventh in 2017. The native of Murrieta, California is clearly a fan favorite. Apparently, there is a Fowler Nation. He’s made 16 of 18 cuts this year.
Last year he ranked 150th on the PGA Tour in approach to the green, and this year he is seventh.
ROAR FOR RORY: Tied for third place is Rory McIlroy (TaylorMade TP5x), who fired a three-under par and is eight-under par. McIlroy hasn’t won a major in nine years. His last once was in the PGA Championship in 2014.
WYNDHAM LOOKING FOR ANOTHER WIN: Wyndham Clark (Titleist Pro V1x) fired a three-under par and sits one shot back of Fowler. Clark won his first PGA Tour win this year in the Wells Fargo.
WATCH OUT FOR DJ: Speaking of California, it would be interesting if Dustin Johnson (TaylorMade TP5x) wins. While he is a native of Columbia, South Carolina, his father-in-law, Wayne Gretzky, triggered the rebound of the Los Angeles Kings when traded from the Edmonton Oilers in 1988.
Johnson enters the weekend at six-under par after shooting even par on Friday, which included a four-over par on the second hole. He shot four-under par on the back nine.
Gretzky contacted fellow Canadian Nick Taylor (Titleist Pro V1x) when he won the RBC Canadian Open last week. Taylor finished at four-over par and failed to make the U.S. Open cut, which was two-over par. Tommy Fleetwood (TaylorMade TP5x), who lost to Taylor on the fourth hole playoff in the Canadian Open, made the cut on the number after shooting one-under par.
BAD ENDING FOR LEFTY: Unlike the opening round of the tournament when he heard some boos from the gallery, including one unruly spectator who was removed, Phil Mickelson (Callaway Chrome Soft X) had some people cheering for him in the second round. The native of California, who turned 53 on Friday, needs to win the U.S. Open to complete his personal grand slam. He finished at three-over par after finishing with four-over par in the second round and missed the cut.
I guess Mickelson will always have some critics for his decision to be the first significant PGA Tour player to leave for LIV Golf.
KOEPKA CRITICAL OF COURSE: Two-time U.S. Open winner Brooks Koepka (Srixon Z-Star Diamond) shot a one-under par in round two to finish at even par.
“I’m not a huge fan of this place,” he said afterward. “I’m not a huge fan of blind tee shots, and then I think there’s just some spots that no matter what you hit, the ball just ends up in the same spot.”
The biggest problem Koepka had was with his putts, missing several makeable birdie attempts.
TOUGH ENDING FOR HOMA: After growing up 20 miles from the Los Angeles Country Club and having set the course record while in university, Max Homa (Titleist Pro V1) had great expectations coming into the tournament. But it was not to be after he fired a six-over par in the second round to finish at four-over par.
NO REPEAT FOR NICK: After scoring a historic win last week in the RBC Canadian Open, Canadian Nick Taylor (Titleist Pro V1x) also missed the cut at four-over par. Tommy Fleetwood (TaylorMade TP5x), who lost to Taylor on the fourth playoff hole, made the cut on the number. Adam Hadwin (Callaway Chrome Soft X), who became a video sensation after he was tackled by a security guard while spraying Taylor with champagne, also made the cut on the number.
BIG NAMES MISS CUT: Some of the noteworthy players who missed the cut were Jordan Spieth (Titleist Pro V1x), Justin Rose (TaylorMade TP5), Jason Day (Bridgestone Tour B X) and Justin Thomas (Titleist Pro V1x).