The idea that Winged Foot Golf Club had lost some of its bite in the first round of the U.S. Open gave way to the reality Friday that the historic course in the northern suburbs of New York remained a formidable challenge for the world’s best players.
After an opening day in which 21 players broke par 70 and another 11 matched it, the second round saw only three players shoot in the 60s with pins in more difficult locations and a steady breeze making club selection more of a guessing game.
But Patrick Reed, although he still had problems finding the narrow fairways and hit only half of the 18 greens in regulation, weaved some short-game magic that earned him a 70 and a one-stroke lead midway through the 120th national championship in Mamaroneck, N.Y.
The 2018 Masters champion, Reed closed the day with a 3-foot birdie putt at the par-5 ninth, his final hole of the day, to complete 36 holes at 4-under 136, one better than long-hitting Bryson DeChambeau.
DeChambeau, who changed his body starting late in 2019 and now weighs a muscular 235 pounds, carded the lowest round of the day, a 68, and it looked like it might be good enough to grab a share of the lead at the very least before Reed’s closing birdie.
Justin Thomas, who fired a 65 to hold the opening-round lead, missed his first eight fairways and stood at even-par for the championship after a double-bogey at his 10th hole, notched two birdies in his last seven holes for a 73 and a three-way tie at 138. Harris English and Rafa Cabrera Bello each shot 70 to join Thomas at that figure.
Jason Kokrak came in with a 71 for a 139 total, the sixth and final contestant to finish two rounds under par.
The stroke average of 75.258 was nearly three shots higher than the 72.561 figure in Round 1. Only one player shot 80 on Thursday but Friday saw three scorecards with an 85 and another with 86.
“It was soft, benign [on Thursday] and the pins were more accessible,” Reed said. “It was almost like they set it up to kind of ease us into the golf tournament, but then today they showed us what it’s really going to be like.”
The tough conditions led to the exit of 15-time major champion Tiger Woods, who shot a 77 and finished his Open at 150, four shots off the cut figure. It marked his eighth missed cut in his last 15 majors. In his first 71 majors, he failed to qualify for the weekend just three times.
Phil Mickelson, whose six runner-up U.S. Open finishes included one at Winged Foot in 2006, also missed the cut after a 74 left him at 153.
For Reed, five was his number on Friday – five fairways hit (for the second straight day), five birdies, five bogeys. Starting on the back nine in the afternoon wave, he made the turn in 3-under and tied for the lead with DeChambeau, who had finished before Reed teed off.
On his second nine, the 30-year-old Reed birdied the first, sixth, and ninth holes, the final one with a 3-foot putt that gave him sole possession of the lead.
“I felt like I left a decent amount of shots out there,” he said. “I felt like I was a little loose with some shots off the tee and also irons, and to be able to feel like that and come out and shoot even par on a day like today, it’s definitely a positive and makes you feel good going into the weekend.”
DeChambeau was even par through his first 17 holes as a result of five bogeys and five birdies. On his final hole, a 557-yard par-5, he blasted his drive 380 yards, hit his second shot to 6 feet, and sank the putt for eagle and the clubhouse lead.
“I feel like there’s so many holes out here that I can take advantage of that some people can’t,” he said. “That doesn’t mean that I’m going to win or anything. You’ve still got to execute, you’ve still got to hit the driver straight. If I’m hitting the driver far but all over the place, you can’t make birdies from the rough.”