Well, we’re finally sort of back on track in terms of the day and the round, but of course, there are still some players who have to return back to the course at the crack of dawn to finish their remaining holes. Most notably, the current leader Shane Lowry, who is three-under on his round and five-under total, has four holes to play. Others include Andrew Landry (E through 13, -3 total), Lee Westwood (-1 through 15, -2 total), Sergio Garcia (E through 14, -2 total) and Dustin Johnson (+2 through 13, -2 total).
But thanks to the deluge earlier this week, Oakmont hasn’t shown its teeth, with the course still giving up birdies and low scores and several good names took advantage of the benign conditions to surge up the leaderboard.
I was confused initially because everyone predicted Saturday would be much tougher than Friday, but I also forgot about the text I got this morning at 8am from Kevin Na’s caddie Kenny Harms.
“Course is still playing soft. Lows scores again today. Greens are rolling the same as yesterday afternoon.”
Yep, the same guy who predicted the 36-hole leader would be six-under and the winning score would be two-under, which he now thinks will be even lower, like four- or five-under.
“Going to have to see the pin placements and see how Mike tricks up the course. Right now I would have to say my -2 winning score will not hold up. It might be four or five under! Too many good players and the greens will still be receptive!”
See, I wanted a little bit more carnage, but I think we’ve seen enough meltdowns and temper tantrums to even out the many birdies. Never mind. I change what I just said. It’s actually been just the right amount of both, to be fair, so it’s quite nice that the leaderboard has shaped up for what should be an exciting finish.
There are three players T3 or better who are arguably three of the best to have never won a major: Westwood, Garcia and DJ, of course. Can any of them manage to get over the hump and actually close? Well, it’s tough to say because there’s certainly a lot of scar tissue, especially with Westy and Garcia. I doubt DJ thinks enough about the past for it to matter, but he probably does enough in the moment, like, say he has a four-footer to get into a playoff tomorrow. I don’t know if I’d bet on him making it — and this year he can’t blame the bumpy greens!
Dustin feels like he’s putted well, but just hasn’t holed that many putts. He had some deep thoughts after play was suspended due to darkness:
Q. How much of a difference does experience make going into a final round, especially when you’re chasing guys that haven’t been in that position before?
DUSTIN JOHNSON: Yeah, it can only help for sure. I’ve been in the position before. I know what to expect. I know how to handle it. So hopefully, the ball falls my way tomorrow.
Q. Do you want it to be as hard as it can possibly be?
DUSTIN JOHNSON: I’m pretty sure it’s going to be hard.
Q. Jason was just saying he wanted it to be really hard. Maybe to the advantage of guys who are [indiscernible], maybe.
DUSTIN JOHNSON: I would imagine it’s going to be quite difficult Sunday.
No quotes from Westwood this evening, but he finished his second round this morning and just talked about how he didn’t have his best, yet managed to keep the damage to a minimum and post a decent round. He is known to get a little snippety when reporters bring up the ginormous elephant in the room — you know, the fact that he’s won a gagillion times, but doesn’t have that elusive major. Until recent years, it seemed like he was always in the hunt, but couldn’t manage to make enough putts when it mattered.
Q. Brilliant finish to what looked like a real grind on the round?
LEE WESTWOOD: It started off well even though I felt like I was struggling a bit with my swing. And then put a run of bogeys together. Bogeys aren’t always disastrous in a U.S. Open. Didn’t play myself out of it. Then finished off strongly with two birdies on the last three holes.
Q. How do you feel you’re swinging the club today?
LEE WESTWOOD: Like I just said, struggling to find my swing on the range and on the golf course, so it was a professional 72 that I just had to grind out.
Q. A professional 72, and you’re one of only ten players in the red numbers under par going into what is now really the weekend. That must be very pleasing.
LEE WESTWOOD: Yeah. The way I played today, I could have blown myself out of the championship. So it was good to grind it out, be under par, be in the red, and have a chance at the weekend.
Meanwhile, Garcia also has been very close at many majors, where he’s made mistakes at inopportune times at several big moments. He’s spoken about how with age and experience also comes scar tissue. I would honestly, love to see him win, so we could stop talking about it. But don’t bring up any monkeys to Sergio!
Q. What would it mean to you to get the monkey off your back tomorrow?
SERGIO GARCIA: The monkey is still coming — on my back or on my bag? (Laughter.) No, there’s no monkeys. That’s nonsense. At the end of the day, the only thing I can do is give myself chances. Play well. And if it happens, it happens.
I don’t know, you know. I will only know the day that it happens. So it is easy for me to stand here and tell you it will mean this or that, but until it happens, you never know.
It would be ideal for both Westwood and Garcia if they were paired together Sunday because they would then feel more comfortable in ways and it would probably relax them
Bryson DeChambeau fired an even-par 70, putting him at one-over for the championship. He trails Lowry by six at the moment, which might be too many shots to make up, but hey, I’ve seen crazier things.
Bryson, who is generally a great ballstriker, just needs a few more putts to fall.
Q. (No microphone) very high expectations of yourself. In terms of winning Major championships, are you there? Are you coming into Major championships saying I feel like I can win it?
BRYSON DeCHAMBEAU: Every tournament, I feel like I can possibly win. I don’t think there’s a golf course that doesn’t suit my game. I like hitting the ball as straight as I can. I’m known for my ball striking. The putter gets hot, watch out.
Q. There are a lot of non first-time major winners out there. What’s it going to take someone to go on and win this tournament?
BRYSON DeCHAMBEAU: A lot of fairways and a lot of greens.
Q. In terms of non first-time major winners?
BRYSON DeCHAMBEAU: Well, again, I think it gets back down to hitting fairways and hitting greens. The person that hits the most fairways, hits the most greens and has a lot of opportunities is going to win this championship.
By the way, he said his caddie told him to bring his “lunch pail” Saturday because it was going to be a long one. Indeed. And it was hot and humid for most of the day.
World no. 1 Jason Day barely made the cut, but the dude never gives up. He got off to a roaring start and posted four-under 31 on the back nine (teed off no. 10). He made some bogeys on the next nine, but also threw in an eagle to balance it out. Day carded a four-under 66 and is currently T8.
I thought the following was probably the most intriguing quote of the day.
Q. About the middle of the second nine, I thought I saw you catch a peek at the score board. Did you allow yourself to do any like wondering where am I on the leaderboard?
JASON DAY: I tend to watch the score board a lot. I pretty much watch the score board the whole day. Yeah, I mean, I think just seeing those guys, it makes me want to chase that score a little bit more.
Obviously, to a certain degree, where you have to be patient. But also, I was holing some good putts out there and had momentum on my side. I feel like if I can just put my name on the score board, hopefully they’ll start to slow down a little bit.
Obviously, they didn’t, but I’ve got to try to do some catching up tomorrow.
Maybe he picked that up from Tiger Woods?
I joke about Andrew Landry having the guts to actually stay in contention after he took the first-round lead, but I am actually really impressed. Thing is, every year almost there’s an unknown player like Landry who is either leading or near the lead after one round at the U.S. Open, but nearly every single time, that guy then posts a big number and falls off the leaderboard, never to be heard from again. So, I figured Landry would do the same, but cripes, he must be absolutely blacked out in a zone. Good for him.
“I feel like I played good golf on hard golf courses where par is a good score,” said Landry, who said he felt no nerves. “That’s just kind of my game. It’s always been my game. It’s kind of like Q school. It’s the same thing with Q school. It’s such a hard, long six rounds of golf. You just have to stay really patient and try not to make a lot of mistakes.”
Shane Lowry is sounding awfully confident and looking very poised. It seems doubtful he’ll make a mess of the last four holes in the third round when he returns in the morning. He seems like he has the guts to hold it together and get it done.
“We all know that this course can jump up and bite you in a split second,” said Lowry. “So yeah, I’m two ahead with 22 holes left. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves. These are the best golfers in the world behind me, Dustin and Jason. Sergio played lovely today. Like I said, I have to go out and do what I’ve been doing all week. I’m really looking forward to tomorrow.
“This is exactly where you want to be. I’ve been beating myself up over the last six months trying to get in this position. I’m here now. I might as well enjoy it while I’m here.”
I went a little snap-happy today because people seem to like to see the stuff in the merchandise tent. More important, I showed Ellie Day the various face filters on SnapChat and we had a good time laughing over them, so she has now signed up and I’m giving her a tutorial tomorrow, so I’ve succeeded in getting her on there! We’ll be seeing even more of Dash and Lu.
Here’s this from the USGA’s Twitter…
— U.S. Open (USGA) (@usopengolf) June 19, 2016
Here’s this random tidbit…
Danny Willett frustrated w/slow play of others in group & walking to 9, smashed his putter & shattered in pieces. Putted w/SW on last hole. — Stephanie Wei (@StephanieWei) June 19, 2016
Lastly, Rory McIlroy double-bogeyed his last hole, the par-4 9th, to miss the cut after fighting back and making the turn at four-under on his round. McIlroy needed a par on the last hole to make the cut on the number, but it’s a beastly one and he seemed to do everything he could to mess it up. He drove it in the fairway bunker and then failed to hit his second shot out. Then, he managed to get the third out and then hit the fourth onto the green and two-putted. Which is really easy to do there…or on any hole at Oakmont!
He declined to speak with the media afterwards, but you know what, he gets a pass. Rory has always been more than gracious with his time in general and usually when he has a bad day. It’s tough to do all the media requirements that he has, so every once in a while if he doesn’t feel like speaking, I’m completely fine with him blowing us off.