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Patrick Reed overtakes a sagging field on second day of U.S. Open

Patrick Reed plays off the second fairway during the second round of the U.S. Open on Friday.
(John Minchillo / Associated Press)

The taming of Winged Foot Golf Club could last only so long.

Deteriorating conditions at the U.S. Open on Friday led to more familiar results at the New York course known for being as friendly as a barroom bouncer.

Greens dried and hardened, revealing patches of brown. Firm fairways sent well-struck drives rolling onto the fringe or bouncing into the rough. The wind whipped more than shirts and trousers, forcing putts that seemed lined up perfectly to drift.

The scores reflected the carnage. One day after a course-record 21 golfers finished under par, only three pulled off that coup in the second round. Bryson DeChambeau and Bubba Watson did so with the benefit of early morning tee times that put them in the clubhouse long before their counterparts gritted their teeth through one wayward shot after another.

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Opening-round leader Justin Thomas followed his five-under 65 with a three-over 73, leaving him two shots behind Patrick Reed, the new frontrunner at four under after pairing an even-par 70 with his 66 from the previous day. Given the unforgiving nature of the venue, Thomas didn’t flog himself after enduring a rough round that included one five-hole stretch in which he shot four over.

Winged Foot has a notorious reputation for being one of golf’s toughest courses, but leader Justin Thomas and some others are finding conditions favorable.

“Every single person in this tournament is going to go through a stretch where they get a bad run, especially here,” said Thomas, who also birdied three holes and sparked a roar from an improvised gallery of credentialed observers when he sank a 20-foot birdie putt on the third hole.

The eventual winner may have revealed himself amid a tightly bunched group at the top of the leaderboard; DeChambeau was one shot back and Rafa Cabrera Bello, Harris English and Thomas were all two shots back, a meaningful threshold considering that 22 of the last 24 winners of the U.S. Open were within two shots of the lead at the tournament’s midpoint. Jason Kokrak is the only other player under par.

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The day’s best round belonged to DeChambeau, the protein-shake-chugging 27-year-old who more closely resembles a linebacker than a golfer. DeChambeau cashed in on his towering drives when he eagled the 557-yard ninth hole, making it look no more challenging than a beachfront putt-putt.

DeChambeau said he had recalibrated wedge shots that were flying too long in the opening round with some evening work on the driving range. His second shot that set up a makeable putt on the eagle came courtesy of the wedge.

“It worked out beautifully,” DeChambeau said.

Bryson DeChambeau lines up a putt on the second green during the second round of the U.S. Open on Thursday.
(John Minchillo / Associated Press)
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Hideki Matsuyama held a double distinction, being the only golfer to break while teeing off in the afternoon with a one-under 69 and sinking what might have been the shot of the day. It came when he sent a chip shot from the fringe of the green about 15 feet past the first hole and watched it bottom out as playing partner Jordan Spieth held out his arm in the direction of the hole, trying to coax the ball toward its intended destination.

Matsuyama‘s round left him at even for the tournament and in a five-way tie for seventh place.

Friday will not yield to a Saturday appearance for Tiger Woods, the three-time U.S. Open champion who failed to make the cut for the second consecutive time this event was played on this course. Woods was grieving the last time had missed the cut here in 2006, shortly after the death of his father, Earl.

Both his drives and his short game betrayed him this time as Woods followed his opening-round 73 with a 77, finishing at 10 over. He remained stoic as he sunk a short putt on the final hole and walked off the green.

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“The way this golf course is changing and the way it’s gotten faster and it’s cooler, drier, the greens got a little more bumpy, you know,” Woods said, “it’s going to be a hell of a test this weekend.”

One that the longtime best golfer in the world won’t be around to take.

Bolch reported from Los Angeles.


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