MAMARONECK, N.Y. — On a day when the wind blew steadily at about 15 miles per hour and the greens began to firm up, Winged Foot Golf Club regained its identity one of the most brutal tests in golf.
One day after a shocking 21 players broke par, just three players — Bryson DeChambeau (68), Bubba Watson (69) and Hideki Matsuyama (69) — managed that feat on Friday in the second round of the U.S. Open, while Patrick Reed birdied his final hole for an even par-70 that left him holding the outright lead at 4-under 136.
Justin Thomas, the first-round leader at 5-under, slipped all the way back to even par through 10 holes but fought back for a 73 that left him in a third-place tie at 2-under 138 with Harris English and Rafa Cabrera Bello, but Rory McIlroy was among those who fell back with a 76-143.
A total of 10 players shot in the 80s, including such major champions as Jordan Spieth (81), Sergio Garcia (81) and Graeme McDowell (80). Tiger Woods posted 77-150 to miss the cut at 6-over 146 along with defending champion Gary Woodland (74-148) and current PGA champion Collin Morikawa (71-147).
Reed wasn’t as sharp as he was in the opening round, but his trademark tenacity helped him grab the lead with his closing birdie at the par-5 9th hole. "Any time you play in the U.S. Open, you know you’re going to have one of those days that things aren’t going your way," Reed said. "I felt like today was that day. I felt like I left a decent amount of shots out there. To feel like that and come out and shoot even par on a day like today, it’s definitely a positive, and it makes you feel good going into the weekend."
First-round leader Thomas could relate to those sentiments. "I played a seven-hole stretch 5-over," Thomas said. "But I just stayed positive and kept fighting because I know that 3-over is better than a 4-over, and today easily could have been 6- or 7-over. I’m proud of myself for how I hung in."
Several players in the morning wave got to subpar numbers in the second round but found themselves hanging on for dear life as conditions grew more difficult. Xander Schauffele followed his opening 68 with a 72 that ended bogey-bogey and left him tied for seventh at even par-140 after 36 holes.
"Bogey-bogey (stinks) anywhere, but I didn’t shoot myself out of it," Schauffele said. "The wind can make a par-3 course difficult, so, put that on a U.S. Open setup and it’s going to be even more so…We get it once a year where it’s a ‘gouge-fest,’ and if it gets harder, so be it."
If anyone walked off Winged Foot brimming with confidence, it was DeChambeau, the only player to break par in each of the first two rounds. He eagled the par 5 ninth hole, his last of the day, with a 380-yard drive and a 179-yard 9-iron approach to a little over six feet.
Before the tournament he said he was going to hit his driver as far as possible, and he hasn’t backed off a free-wheeling philosophy that resulted in five birdies and the eagle that were countered by five bogeys.
"I feel great," DeChambeau said. "Confidence is at an all-time high right now, driving it well, iron play is fantastic, wedging is getting better each and every day, and I’m putting like I know I can. So very happy.
"I feel like there’s so many holes out here that I can take advantage of that some people can’t," DeChambeau said. "Now, that doesn’t mean I’m going to win or anything. I still have to work on hitting it straight and far. That’s a combo I’m going to strive for the rest of my life."
It just might be the combo that tames Winged Foot.