Southampton (United States) (AFP) – Dustin Johnson took command of the US Open on Friday, firing a three-under-par 67 at Shinnecock Hills for a four-shot lead as the only player under par after 36 punishing holes.
Shinnecock Hills presented a different face as Thursday’s gusting wind gave way to morning mist with stretches of wind-driven rain, followed by afternoon sunshine.
Johnson was more than equal to all of it, his two-round total of four-under 136 putting him four ahead of Americans Charley Hoffman and Scott Piercy.
“Dustin was in complete control of what he was doing,” said his playing partner Tiger Woods, who missed the cut in his first US Open since 2015 as he added a two-over 72 to his opening 78 for a 10-over total of 150.
“He’s hitting the ball so flush and so solid,” Woods said. “I know it’s windy. It’s blustery. It was raining early. But he’s hitting right through it.”
After two birdies in his first nine holes, Johnson made his only bogey of the day at the first, unable to get up and down for par from a greenside bunker.
But he would add two more birdies, including a 45-foot putt at the par-three seventh that took its time getting to the hole then teetered in to a massive roar from the crowd.
“That was a good one,” said Johnson, the 2016 US Open winner who watched it all the way. “I knew about halfway there it was on a really good line if it would just get to the hole — it dropped right in the front door.”
Hoffman put himself under par for the tournament when he rolled in a long bomb at the par-five 16th for the last of his three birdies. He kept the momentum with a par save at 17, but dropped a shot at 18 to cap a one-under par 69 that left him on even par 140 alongside Piercy.
Piercy, who shared the overnight lead with Johnson, England’s Ian Poulter and Russell Henley, carded a one-over 71 for his share of second.
Poulter trimmed Johnson’s lead to one with three birdies in the space of four holes on his inward run, keeping the momentum going with a par save from a tough lie below his feet in a bunker.
But Poulter made a triple-bogey seven at the par-four eighth — his penultimate hole — and bogeyed nine in a two-over 72 that dropped him into a tie for fourth with defending champion Brooks Koepka, England’s Justin Rose and Tommy Fleetwood, Sweden’s Henrik Stenson.
– ‘Disaster on every hole’ –
Four-under 66s by Koepka and Fleetwood were the best rounds of the tournament on a Shinnecock course where, Poulter noted, “There’s a disaster on every single hole” for someone.
Woods was among a stream of marquee names who wouldn’t make it to the weekend.
Looking for a round in the 60s to keep him alive for the weekend, Woods settled for a two-over-par 72.
The 14-time major champion finished strong, with birdies at his last two holes, but at 10-over-par 150 he was two strokes outside the expected cut line of eight-over.
“I don’t think you can be too happy and too excited about 10 over par,” said Woods, who made a double bogey at the par-four first a day after opening the tournament with a triple bogey there.
In the fairway off the tee, Woods found deep, rain-soaked rough with his second shot. His third shot rolled through the green and his pitch left him 14 feet, from where he two-putted.
Let down by his putter all week, Woods sounded a touch envious in discussing Johnson’s efforts on the difficult, sloping greens.
“Every putt looked like it was going to go in,” Woods said.
Four-time major winner Rory McIlroy also missed the cut. The Northern Ireland star, 10-over after the first round, was 14-over after a double-bogey at the ninth and a run of four birdies in six holes starting at the 11th was too little, too late as he finished on 10-over 150.
Three-time major winner Jordan Spieth, his bid to make the cut after an opening 78 also slowed by a double-bogey, reeled off four birdies in a row starting at the 13th but closed with back-to-back bogeys in a 71 for 149 — one outside the cut line.
Australians Jason Day and Adam Scott, Spain’s Sergio Garcia and Jon Rahm and Germany’s Martin Kaymer also fell prey to Shinnecock.
But Phil Mickelson, seeking a first US Open title that would give him the career Grand Slam, is set to play the third round on his 48th birthday after firing a one-under par 69 for a six-over total of 146.