ERIN, Wis. — There was proof all over this new course that an Open door swings both ways. In fact, the players exiting were the most noteworthy. Despite another crush of low scores, the U.S. Open late Friday became at least as much about who is out than who is in.
No doubt, the packed leader board bodes for a wild weekend at Erin Hills, with Paul Casey, Brian Harman, Tommy Fleetwood and Brooks Koepka tied for the second-round lead at 7-under-par 137. Rickie Fowler, the first-round leader, is in a three-way tie at 6 under, followed by an eclectic mix of five golfers at 5 under.
“We’re in a good spot,” Fowler said, referring to his status in the first-person plural after shooting 1-over 73. “So, it should be a fun weekend.”
It is going to be a surprisingly quiet weekend for defending champion and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson, as well as Nos. 2 and 3 Rory McIlroy and Jason Day, all of whom missed the cut. It was the first time since the official world rankings began in 1986 that the top three all missed the cut in a major. And none of them was particularly close on a first-time major championship layout that has played soft. “Everything was in good shape. But you don’t really know until you put a card in your hand and you’re under the gun a little bit,” said McIlroy, who said goodbye at 5 over.
Said Johnson, who was 3 over: “I really like this golf course, it sets up well for me. As we all know, this game is all about putting. I just didn’t get it in the hole fast enough.”
Day, at 10 over, said, “I mean, the scores were out there. If you hit the fairways, the scores are there.”
Proof of that came from Hideki Matsuyama and Chez Reavie, both of whom shot 7-under 65 Friday. Combined with Fowler’s 65 on Thursday, this marked the first time that three golfers had 7-under rounds in the same Open. Matsuyama, a 25-year-old, four-time PGA Tour winner from Japan, had a putt for birdie on the par-5 18th hole, which would have been only the second 8-under round in U.S. Open history, matching Johnny Miller’s 63 at par-71 Oakmont in 1973.
“I thought 63 was the number. I wasn’t thinking too much about 8 under,” he said through an interpreter. Matsuyama is part of the group at 5 under (that also includes Open rookies Si Woo Kim, Xander Schauffele and amateur Cameron Champ) and had a simple explanation why: “The biggest difference was I putted very well today . . . There were a couple of loose swings out there, but when you shoot 65, you can take those.”
There is no telling what the weekend will bring — starting with the weather, which includes a possibility of thunderstorms that could delay play and make the greens soft again.
“It’s going to be great,” said Fleetwood, a 26-year-old Englishman who won at Abu Dhabi on the European Tour earlier this year. “I’ve never done this before. I’ve never played in [one of the final pairings of] a U.S. Open, so tomorrow will be a very cool experience.”
Koepka, a power-hitting U.S. Ryder Cup team member, said, “I’m pretty chill anyway. I’m enjoying it right now.”
Harman, a two-time PGA Tour winner from Georgia, said, “I was pretty nervous this morning and I got off to a little shaky start. And I was proud I hung in there.”
None of the leaders had as shaky a stretch as Casey, who made 8 on the par-5 14th hole — after hitting into the fescue and nearly whiffing on his swing to get out — and bogeyed the next hole. “I’ve shown what can happen with one bad swing. So you’ve got to be very patient and stay in the moment,” he said.
It will be a different kind of moment, without the world’s top three, and with the leading 12 having a combined zero major titles. “It’s one of the hardest tests of golf we get through the year,” Fowler said. “It’s our national championship, so to be in good position and have a chance to win it, it’s special. It’s a special weekend.”
Deepdale’s Hagestad misses cut. Amateur Stewart Hagestad of Deepdale Golf Club in Manhasset shot 75 and missed the cut at 8 over.