Johnson separating himself from pack at US Open; India’s Shubhankar Sharma misses cut
Southampton, New York, June 15: Dustin Johnson has shown the ability to perform well on some tough golf courses. He won the 2016 U.S. Open at Oakmont Country Club, one of the most difficult venues in the world.
Now, after a 3-under 67 on Friday, Johnson holds a four-shot lead at the midpoint of the U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills Golf Club, where only three players in the 156-player field are at par or better. Johnson is the only guy with a red number next to his name.
“You’ve got to play really good golf if you want to shoot a good score,” Johnson said. “I like where par is a good score on every hole no matter what club you’ve got in your hand, what hole it is.”
Japan’s world No. 10 Hideki Matsuyama birdied his closing hole for a 70, which moved him up 20 rungs to T26 on 5-over, nine shots back of Johnson and as the leading Asian. Byeong Hun An represents the only South Korean to make it to the weekend. The recent runner-up of the Memorial Tournament presented by Nationwide is T45 entering Saturday, 7-over for the week, after shooting 76 on Friday. He had just one birdie on the par-4 No. 13 compared to seven bogeys, including four over five holes at one point on the back nine. Meanwhile, rising India star Shubhankar Sharma (74-76) narrowly missed the cut after carding a six-over 76.
China’s Haotong Li sank three birdies against a lone bogey for a fine 68 to safely make the halfway cut on 7-over as well while Thailand’s Kiradech Aphibarnrat battled to a 72 to squeeze into the final two rounds right on the number at 8-over as he looks to lock his PGA TOUR card for next season.
Johnson, meanwhile, overcame rainy conditions that settled over the course for about half his round. He had four birdies and one bogey and stands at 4-under 136. He hit 12 of 14 fairways for the second straight day and birdied the par-3 seventh hole by rolling in a 45-foot putt.
“I knew about halfway there it was on a really good line if it would just get to the hole,” Johnson said. “I guess it dropped right in the front door.”
Charley Hoffman, who was eighth in the 2017 U.S. Open, shot a 69 and moved into a second-place tie at 1-under with Scott Piercy, one of four first-round co-leaders, who shot 71 despite a four-putt bogey at No. 16.
“I can’t wait to see how I perform,” Hoffman said. “I enjoy the challenges that golf brings and there’s going to be challenges out there [Saturday].”
Defending champion Brooks Koepka and Tommy Fleetwood each shot 66, the low score of the day, and are in a five-way tie for fourth, at 1 over. Henrik Stenson (70), Justin Rose (70) and Ian Poulter, who played the final two holes in 4-over (72), are also at 141.
“There’s nobody more confident than me,” Koepka said. “I feel like I’m playing really well; just need to continue what we’re doing.”
Fleetwood said, “At a U.S. Open you just have to keep your head down. You have to keep going.”
Although Johnson has a four-shot lead going into the weekend, he doesn’t believe the matter has been decided on a course as unyielding as Shinnecock Hills.
“There’s still a lot of golf left,” Johnson said. “There are still 36 holes left no matter what position I’m in. I’m going to stick to my game plan, stick to trying to play the holes how I have the first couple days and see what happens.”
Rose said, “You saw what happened to Ian Poulter. That could happen to D.J. I’m not saying it’s going to, but it could. That’s the nature of the U.S. Open. So ‘hang around’ is often the best form of attack.”
The cut was set at 8-over 148 and claimed many high-profile victims. Among those who failed to qualify for the weekend were former U.S .Open champions Jordan Spieth, Lucas Glover, Graeme McDowell and former Masters champions Charl Schwartzel, Bubba Watson, Adam Scott, Sergio Garcia and Danny Willett.
Tiger Woods, a three-time U.S. Open champ, shot a 72 but still missed the cut, finishing at 10-over 150, in his first U.S. Open appearance since 2015. “I’m not very happy the way I played and the way I putted,” Woods said. “I don’t know that you can be too happy and too excited about 10-over par.”