Recap of the day
Morning wave: After the intense travails of Thursday a sense, albeit relatively, of freedom hit the course on Friday morning. Many continued to suffer, but there were significant scoring moves from others. Rafa Cabrera Bello kicked it off, playing his first nine in 3-under but then adding a 4-over second nine to ruin all the good work. In contrast Henrik Stenson covered his first nine holes in 3-over and second in 3-under for a stealthy effort that keeps him in the running. Tommy Fleetwood was star of the morning with a brilliant 4-under-par 66 and Dustin Johnson nearly matched it with a 67 to total 4-under 136 (the clubhouse target). Overnight co-leader Russell Henley limped to a 73.
Afternoon wave: Scott Piercy was out in the first group and quickly lost three shots to par, but a fine second nine got him home in 71 for level-par 140. Justin Rose got up a head of speed, at one point reaching 1-under for the week, but closed with painful back-to-back bogeys. At the same time his good friend Ian Poulter, who had got his score for the week to 3-under and just one shy of Johnson, was making a devastating triple bogey-7 at the eighth; he also dropped a shot at the ninth, his final hole of the day. Meanwhile defending champion Brooks Koepka, who made two early bogeys, responded with six birdies in his final 11 holes of the day to join the pack on 1-over for the week (and also equal Fleetwood's 66). Charley Hoffman carded 69 to join Piercy in second on level-par.
At the midpoint, we have a sizeable tee-time advantage. Golfers that started their week on Thursday morning have averaged 148.95 while the PM/AM wave has averaged 2.24 strokes higher (151.19).
Leaderboard: -4 Dustin Johnson, level Charley Hoffman, Scott Piercy, +1 Tommy Fleetwood, Henrik Stenson, Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka, Ian Poulter
Notables: +2 Rickie Fowler, +3 Marc Leishman, +4 Justin Thomas, Alex Noren, +5 Patrick Reed, Hideki Matsuyama, +6 Phil Mickelson
Low round of the day: 66, achieved by Fleetwood's clinical long game and Koepka's power.
Cut: +8 148
MC: +9 Graeme McDowell, Lucas Glover, Jordan Spieth, +10 Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy +11 Bubba Watson, +12 Jason Day, Matt Kuchar, +13 Adam Scott, +14 Sergio Garcia, Shane Lowry, +15 Jon Rahm, +18 Martin Kaymer
Revised outright betting: Johnson 6/4, Rose 8/1, Fowler 14/1, Stenson 14/1, Fleetwood 16/1, Hoffman 33/1, Poulter 33/1, Piercy 40/1
Saturday weather forecast
Temperatures in the high 70s, almost zero chance of rain, but what of the wind, the course's big threat? The forecast isn't disastrous, but the course is close to the ocean and exposed so that can always change quickly.
The Leaders - how they performed
Dustin Johnson 67, 136 - he's nothing but a big wild hitter, right? Actually he found 12 of 14 fairways on Friday and if there was any weakness it was with his approach play as he found 12 of 18 greens in regulation. When hitting those greens he needed 1.50 putts.
Scott Piercy 71, 140 - played the back nine first and shelled three bogeys, but managed as many birdies on his way home (plus a fourth dropped shot). All-in-all a fine fightback. Missed only one fairway Friday.
Charley Hoffman 69, 140 - continues to turn round his championship record (last year's T8 was his first top 35 finish in six attempts) and the long game was solid Friday (12 of 14 fairways, 14 of 18 greens in regulation). All set for solo second until a stray drive at 18 led to bogey.
Fate of the Favorites
Dustin Johnson 67, 136 - started on the back nine and made two birdies to maintain the momentum of Thursday. Stumbled with bogey at the first, but two more red numbers took him clear of the field.
Rory McIlroy 70, 150 - played his final nine holes in a best-of-the-week (for the entire field) 4-under which will be no consolation whatsoever as he missed a third U.S. Open cut on the trot. Found only five greens in regulation on the first lap, landed 17 on the second.
Justin Rose 70, 141 - the bogey-bogey finish will really hurt. First he missed a 3'5" par putt on the eighth and then a stray tee shot required a lay up and he couldn't get up and down.
Rickie Fowler 69, 142 - yet another who worked hard all day and then wilted late, in his case failing to get up-and-down at the 18th; missed one fairway all Friday and just four through 36 holes.
Jason Day 73, 152 - was given stick on social media for being a hit and gouge merchant who was found out on Thursday yet he found 11 of 14 fairways on Friday and it helped him find no more than nine greens in regulation. An improvement on Thursday's figure of six, but a poor week.
Jordan Spieth 71, 149 - reached the turn in level-par and then hit the rollercoaster. Double-bogey, bogey at 10 and 11 hurt his chances of making the weekend, four birdies in four holes from the 13th got him inside the line, back-to-back bogeys to close placed him back outside of it.
Dustin Johnson (67, 136): "You’ve got to play really good golf if you want to shoot a good score, and 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 ... You look up at leaderboards and there's a few names you don't want to see, mine would be one of them."
Tiger Woods (72, 150): "It was tough out there early. Wind was blowing. It was raining a little bit, and I was kind of hanging in there until, unfortunately, first and second hole kind of derailed it. I'm not very happy the way I played and the way I putted. I'm 10 over par. So I don't know that you can be too happy and too excited about 10 over par."
Tommy Fleetwood (66, 141): but on his solo fourth last year): "I do like the U.S. Open set-up, it's the ultimate test of golf. It has shown me that I can stand up and I can compete in the biggest tournaments in the world. I didn't win but I felt pretty comfortable. If you're that close, you can kind of get there."
Henrik Stenson (70, 141): "Even though I would say it's playing easier than it was yesterday, it was still tough out there. I was just trying to keep my patience and hanging in there. I still don't feel like I've played that great tee-to-green. I've hit a lot of fairways and a lot of greens, but it's still been — you know, not the quality of strike that I would have liked to have and the control of the direction all the time."
Phil Mickelson (69, 146): "We got lucky with the conditions, getting much easier. Our wave of tee times was significantly easier, and it shows how impressive Dustin Johnson is playing because he played in much more difficult conditions and he's beating everybody by a lot."
Ian Poulter (72, 141 on his triple bogey-7): "When you're out of position on this golf course and you're trying not to make another mistake it can make you look really stupid. So, yes, I felt stupid knifing the first one. I felt even more stupid semi-chunking the next one, and I didn't do much better on the next one either. We're human, right? We make a mistake. I think the best outcome for me is to put it out of my mind, to look upon, you know, the position I'm in for this weekend. I'm T-4."
Road to victory in the U.S. Open
2017 Brooks Koepka – R1: 4th, R2: 1st, R3: 2nd
2016 Dustin Johnson - R1: 2nd, R2: 1st, R3: 2nd
2015 Jordan Spieth - R1: 7th, R2: 1st, R3: 1st
2014 Martin Kaymer - R1: 1st, R2: 1st, R3: 1st
2013 Justin Rose - R1: 16th, R2: 3rd, R3: 5th
Notes: Yes, the last four winners were all leading after 36 holes, two of them solo. Going further back in time no less than 19 of the last 20 winners were T6 or better at halfway. The exception is quite a big one however: Webb Simpson was T29 heading into the weekend when he won in 2012. Perhaps more remarkable is that 19 of the 20 were no more than two swings back of the lead at this stage (Simpson was six).
Fate of the halfway leaders in the U.S. Open
2017 - Brooks Koepka - winner, Brian Harman - 2nd, Tommy Fleetwood - 4th, Paul Casey - 26th
2016 - Dustin Johnson - winner
2015 - Jordan Spieth - winner, Patrick Reed - 14th
2014 - Martin Kaymer - winner
2013 - Phil Mickelson - 2nd, Billy Horschel - 4th
Notes: In the 21st century 31 golfers have held or shared the 36-hole lead in the championship and 11 have gone on to claim the win. Seven men drifted over the weekend to finish outside the top 20. JL Lewis, Jason Gore and Olin Browne might not surprise you, but Tiger Woods might (2012)!
Focus on - Jon Rahm
A tempestuous 78 on Thursday and a temper tantrum-filled 77 on Friday, and the frequency with which the Spaniard throws a hissy fit is getting to become something of a bore for those watching and a threat for his long term success in events which test patience and resilience (in other words, the majors). It makes sense that he does not make the top 20 as often in the majors as the rest of the year, but the disparity is currently vast. He has 29 top 20s from 45 regular tour starts (64.44%), but just one top 20 in the majors from nine starts (11.11%). What's also startling is that he has only three top 40s in those nine efforts. How does that compare with the rest of the world's top six? Justin Thomas and Rory McIlroy ticked off five, Dustin Johnson and Justin Rose six, perhaps most surprising is that Jordan Spieth is closest to Rahm with four. The difference is that one of them was a win (the only one of the six to win that early).
Focus on - HaoTong Li
It would be easy to miss the move the 22-year-old Chinese golfer made on Friday. Easy, but wrong because his performance so far this week is entirely in keeping with his short career major championship record. How so? Simple really. On Thursday he landed just 50% of the fairways and greens as he lurched to a 79. But next day he became just the 13th golfer in the last 21 years to hit 17 of 18 greens in regulation (McIlroy would match the achievement later in the day) and shot 68 to make the cut with a bit to spare. It's only 12 months ago that he made his debut in the majors, making the weekend and then stabbing his way to closing rounds of 82-82 at Erin Hills. Many golfers would have been cowed by the experience. HaoTong has got something, however, an inner resolve and refusal to stay down. On his next start he finished T7 in the Open de France and on his next major start he closed with a 63 for solo third at the Open Championship. Take note. He's wild, but he's resilient. And he's capable of filth, but he's also well up to very special golf as well.