Second Round U.S. Open Observations

Merion Golf Club

Merion Golf Club (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A few second round observations from Merion:
 
Tiger Woods and his wonky elbow
 
Lots of wincing yesterday from Woods thanks to the pain in his left elbow, but he still came away with one of the best rounds of the day with an even par 70. I know a lot of people don’t necessarily think that he’s actually hurt, or if he is, he’s not as hurt as he’s making it out to be, but I’m not going to speculate on that because frankly, it’s not fair to do that. What I do know is that Woods put himself in a position to win yesterday with that even par round, and after play finished, he was only four shots back of Phil Mickelson and Billy Horschel.
 
Zach Johnson’s disdain for the USGA
 
Zach Johnson is a nine-time winner on the PGA Tour who won the Masters in 2007. He’s been on Ryder Cup teams and has consistently been near the top of the Official World Golf Rankings for most of the last five years, so when he speaks, people tend to listen. After his second round was complete, he talked with Randall Mell of the Golf Channel, and had this to say:
 

“I would describe the whole golf course as manipulated,” Johnson said. “It just enhances my disdain for the USGA and how it manipulates golf courses.”

 
When asked about the setup of the course and if it was fair, something which is always in question at the U.S. Open, Johnson said:
 

“Not when luck is required,” Johnson said. “I think Merion is a great golf course, if you let Merion be, but that is not the agenda.”

 
I get that the USGA wants to make this event the toughest test in golf, and I don’t have a problem with that in this setting, especially considering that it’s only once a year. However, what I don’t like is that players are punished equally for being just a little or a lot off. Missing your target by a few inches versus a few yards should allow for differing levels of punishment, which isn’t the case here. Johnson ended up at 11-over par, while his playing partners, two former U.S. Open champions in Graeme McDowell and Jim Furyk ended up at 13 and 16-over par respectively. All three will be missing the cut.
 
Billy Horschel’s stunning round
 
Horschel’s 3-under par round yesterday that got him into a tie with Phil Mickelson at the top of the leaderboard was a remarkable display of ball striking. He hit all 18 greens in regulation, and attributed it after the round to his new found ability to stay patient on the golf course. Knowing him, I don’t actually believe that he’s become a patient player, but any improvement in that area is a massive positive for him. Remember, this is a guy who did this a little while ago:
 
Horschel-missed-put-reax
 
And this:
 
horschel-bogey-reax
 
We’ll get to see how patient he really is if he gets a little wayward off the tee today and into that thick Merion rough.
 
Phil Mickelson
 
Not much to say about Mickelson’s round really, except that he had a massive advantage by getting out and finishing before it got too dark last night. He’ll be rested before he goes off with Horschel and Luke Donald this afternoon, and he really looks like he’s in control right now. Of course, he’s done that before heading into the weekend at the U.S. Open, so we’ll have to see how this one plays out. One thing I will say though: Mickelson winning the U.S. Open on Sunday, which is not only Father’s Day, but also his birthday would send the media into a frenzy that we’ve never seen before.
 
Other Notes

  • Not sure why, but people aren’t talking about Donald enough right now. He’s the guy I’d be most afraid of at this point, even though he’s looking for his first major championship.
  • Only twelve players on the leaderboard are ahead of Woods and Rory McIlroy.
  • Stricker, Rose, Donald, Mahan, Schwartzel, Colsaerts, Stenson, Els, Woods, McIlroy, Castano, Day, Harrington, Ogilvy and Coetzee are all within five shots of Mickelson and Horschel. Stacked leaderboard.
  • Louis Oosthuizen withdrew from the event with a hip injury, while Robert Garrigus withdrew as well, but no reason has been given.
  • Only six players were under par in their second rounds: Horschel, Steve Stricker, Justin Rose, Hunter Mahan, Henrik Stenson and David Hearn. Hearn needed that 69 too, as he just got in under the cut at 7-over par.
  • Notables to miss the cut: Tim Clark, Peter Hanson, Matteo Manassero, Freddie Jacobson, Kevin Streelman, Zach Johnson, D.A. Points, Sang-moon Bae, Nick Watney, Bill Haas, Boo Weekley, Francesco Molinari, Keegan Bradley, Y.E. Yang, Graeme McDowell, Branden Grace, Jordan Spieth, Scott Piercy, Ryan Palmer, Angel Cabrera, Jim Furyk, Ryan Moore, Russell Henley and Thorbjorn Olesen.
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