Spieth, Reed Share 36-Hole Lead
By David Shefter, USGA
UNIVERSITY PLACE, Wash. – Heading into the final 36 holes of the 115th U.S. Open, 16 players are under par. For some, that might seem out of character for the national championship. Then again, few knew what Chambers Bay, an 8-year-old course hosting its first U.S. Open, would have in store for the world’s best golfers.
The answer still might be a mystery, but thus far, the course alongside Puget Sound has produced an eclectic leader board, led by reigning Masters champion Jordan Spieth and four-time PGA Tour winner Patrick Reed, both of whom sit at 5-under 135.
Spieth, bidding to become the sixth golfer to win the Masters and U.S. Open in the same year, followed up his 68 from Thursday with a 3-under 67, while Reed posted a 69 on Friday.
Ten others are within three strokes of the lead. Dustin Johnson, the 18-hole co-leader, and six-time PGA European Tour winner Branden Grace sit one back at 4-under 136, while the group at 137 includes two sectional qualifiers from the state of Utah (Daniel Summerhays and Tony Finau), four-time European Tour winner Joost Luiten, of the Netherlands, and 2009 U.S. Amateur runner-up Ben Martin.
Two-time U.S. Open runner-up Jason Day and four-time PGA Tour winner J.B. Holmes are three back at 138 along with U.S. Open rookie Jamie Lovemark. Henrik Stenson, who shared the 18-hole lead with Johnson, struggled to a 74 for a two-round total of 139.
Spieth is the only major champion among those in the red, which might give him a slight edge going into the weekend. He will be in the final pairing with Reed, whom he edged in a three-way playoff to claim the Valspar Championship outside of Tampa, Fla., earlier this year. The two were also Ryder Cup teammates and partners last fall in Scotland.
“I know that it’s going to get tougher and tougher [this weekend],” said Spieth, 21. “So I’ll draw some on Augusta, but at the same time, my patience level has to be even that much higher. It’s a harder golf course than the Masters played this year.”
Added Reed: “Yeah, it’s definitely going to be a tournament that anyone has a chance to win. If a guy gets hot and shoots 7, 8 under par, who knows what he’s going to do with the scoreboard. That’s how it is at every U.S. Open. I just have to go in and take it hole by hole, shot by shot, and hopefully at the end have a shot.”
The 36-hole cut came at 5-over 145 with 69 professionals and six amateurs sticking around to play this weekend.
Among those to miss the cut was defending champion Martin Kaymer, along with five other past champions: Lucas Glover, Retief Goosen, Lee Janzen, Graeme McDowell and Tiger Woods, the three-time winner who posted his worst 36-hole total (156) in 19 U.S. Open starts.
Others to miss included two-time Masters champion Bubba Watson, 2015 Players champion Rickie Fowler, Tacoma-area favorites Ryan Moore and Michael Putnam, and 15-year-old amateur Cole Hammer.
Friday’s scoring average jumped nearly a stroke from 72.71 to 73.48 and the number of under-par rounds dipped from 25 to 18. Part of that could be attributed to a course that measured 7,695 yards, the longest in U.S. Open history, and featured a record six par 4s playing more than 500 yards. As planned, the USGA also changed No. 1 to a par 5 and No. 18 to a par 4, while also utilizing the upper tee location on the par-3 ninth, which features a dramatic 100-foot drop.
Nevertheless, Chambers Bay maintained its firm and fast playing characteristics.
“There's nothing about it that's unfair,” said six-time U.S. Open runner-up Phil Mickelson, who carded a 74 and is eight strokes out of the lead. “It is a totally fair setup, plenty of room to hit it. Tee to green, I think it's a very excellent test. The surface area around the hole is a bit challenging for everybody.”
Spieth’s patience was challenged after a double-bogey 6 on 18, his ninth hole of the day. Walking off the tee of the par-5 first hole, Spieth was clearly frustrated, only to be calmed down by his caddie, Michael Greller, a former Chambers Bay caddie whom he first met four years ago in the U.S. Junior Amateur conducted 30 minutes away at Gold Mountain in Bremerton. Spieth later hired Greller to be his full-time caddie.
Greller got Spieth refocused for the final nine holes. He birdied the first, one of four he registered on his closing nine. He finished by holing an 8-foot birdie at No. 9 following a brief delay due to fellow competitor Day's medical issue.
“I said right here yesterday that I’d take 2 under every round,” said Spieth. “This golf course is going to test your nerve and it’s how you rebound from it. My knowledge of having played in a few [U.S. Opens] certainly kicked in there [on No. 9] and I was able to make a 2 where I could have made a 3 or worse.”
For a while on Friday, it appeared either Johnson or Reed would own the 36-hole lead. Johnson, who leads the PGA Tour in driving distance, was in full control of his game through seven holes, reaching 7 under par before taking a bogey at the par-3 ninth. He got to 7 under again after his birdie on 12, but closed with three bogeys over his last five holes.
Johnson, who will be in Saturday’s penultimate pairing with Grace, knows from past experience that he’s in a good position. He owned the 54-hole lead in the 2010 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach, only to card a final-round 82. Johnson said Thursday he’s much better equipped to handle a major at 30 than he was five years ago.
“I've got a good game plan out here,” said Johnson. “I just need to stick to it. If I keep swinging well and keep putting well, I will be right there come Sunday.”
Playing two groups behind Johnson, Reed holed a 2-foot birdie putt on No. 16 to reach 6 under, but he, too, bogeyed 18, the fifth-hardest hole in Round 2. Reed was frustrated he didn’t get more out of his round.
“I was zero percent on up-and-downs today,” said Reed, who advanced to the Round of 32 in the 2010 U.S. Amateur at Chambers Bay. “But we're in a good position and we hopefully can have a good weekend and have a chance to win.”
David Shefter is a senior staff writer for the USGA. Email him at email@example.com.