BROOKLINE (Massachusetts): Collin Morikawa held a share of the US Open lead after a riveting second round on Friday while defending champion Jon Rahm and tournament favourite Rory McIlroy were one stroke adrift on a star-laden leaderboard.
Twice major champion Morikawa fired a four-under-par 66 that was the day’s low round and left him at five under 135 on the week at The Country Club outside Boston and level with little-known American qualifier Joel Dahmen, who shot 68.
“No one has taken it deep so far and kind of run away, but you know what, right now my game feels really good,” said Morikawa, who is the only player currently in the top 10 of the world rankings without a PGA Tour win this season.
World number two Rahm (67) enjoyed another solid day on the greens to move up the leaderboard, while number three McIlroy (69) overcame a shaky start to share third place on 136 along with Hayden Buckley (68), Aaron Wise (68) and Beau Hossler (67).
Lurking a further shot off the pace were a pack of five golfers that featured reigning Masters champion and world number one Scottie Scheffler (67), setting the stage for what could be a wild weekend at Brookline.
While a leaderboard with the top three players in the world rankings within two strokes of the lead is a fan’s dream going into a major weekend, even Rahm is excited about the chance to go toe-to-toe with his peers on one of golf’s biggest stages.
“It’s fun for all of us because we all want to compete against the best and beat the best, and it’s obviously a lot more fun for watching,” said Rahm. “It’s great for the game of golf that the highest-ranked players and the best players are up there, especially in the tournament where truly the best player ends up winning.”
Starting on the 10th tee, Morikawa made birdie putts of 10 feet at the 12th hole, 13 feet at the par-5 14th, 14 feet at the 17th and 33 feet at the first.
After his lone bogey at the fourth, Morikawa dropped his second shot at the par-4 eighth four feet from the cup but missed his eagle putt and settled for birdie.
Dahmen, who considered skipping a recent US Open qualifier so he could concentrate on upcoming PGA Tour events where he figured he would fare better, missed a 10-foot birdie putt at the last that would have given him the solo lead.
“It’s kind of been a whirlwind really,” said Dahmen. “I was trying to think back on the round today, and it’s all kind of a blur really, which I think is probably a good thing.”
McIlroy, who endured a double-bogey disaster at the third hole, sank a 15-foot birdie putt at the 12th, drove the green in two to set up a tap-in birdie at the par-5 14th and sank a 12-foot birdie putt at 17.
“I’m in a good place,” McIlroy said. “I’m really happy with where my game is at and I think that’s the most important thing.”
Rahm, a back-nine starter, holed a 12-foot eagle putt at the par-5 14th, drove the green to set up a birdie at the par-4 fifth and chipped from the rough ahead of a tap-in birdie at eight.
Scheffler, who began the day four shots back of overnight leader Adam Hadwin (72), was bolstered by a late eagle at the par-five 14th when, 55 yards away from the hole, he chipped in from the second cut of rough.
Six-time US Open runner-up Phil Mickelson, who has become the face of the Saudi-backed LIV series, missed the cut after an 11 over total that was better than only two other competitors from the breakaway circuit.
“I enjoyed the week. Wish I had played better,” said Mickelson.
The US Open field this week included 15 players from the LIV series and of those Dustin Johnson, Patrick Reed, Bryson DeChambeau and Richard Bland were the only ones to make the cut at the year’s third major.