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Stage is set for spectacular Saturday: What to watch for at fiery Pinehurst No. 2

Highlights: 2024 U.S. Open, late Round 2
Look back at standout moments from afternoon action in Round 2 of the 2024 U.S. Open, where several of Pinehurst No. 2's holes proved troublesome for notable names.

PINEHURST, N.C. – Ludvig Åberg is used to accelerated timelines.

The 24-year-old Swede finished alone in second place earlier this year at the Masters in what was his major-championship debut.

Now, he’s in an even better position – one shot clear of the field heading into the weekend at the 124th U.S. Open.

Åberg leads the field in both driving accuracy and greens in regulation at Pinehurst No. 2 as he sits at 5-under 135, one shot clear of a trio of players including 2020 U.S. Open champion Bryson DeChambeau and world No. 9 Patrick Cantlay.

“This being my first one, I think a U.S. Open is supposed to be hard. It’s supposed to be tricky, and it’s supposed to challenge any aspect of your game – and I feel like it’s really doing that,” Åberg said after a second-round 69. “But super fortunate with the way that things have turned out over the last couple of days, and hopefully we’ll be able to keep it up.”

The last player to win their U.S. Open debut was Francis Ouimet in 1913.

But not even the “father of amateur golf” possessed a game as head-turning as Åberg. He hit his first 20 fairways this week, tying him for the second-most all time to start a U.S. Open, and now has become just the third player in the last 25 years to lead both driving accuracy and greens in regulation through 36 holes. Åberg credited his dialed-in performance to an early-week tuneup with his Swedish swing coach, and he has exhibited the kind of patience and discipline of an Open veteran.

“The guy is like a machine,” said Tony Finau, who was grouped with Åberg over the first two days. “He sure makes it look pretty easy.”

Åberg is making just his third career major start, but he has already proven he’s not your average first-timer. Though he didn’t seriously challenge Scottie Scheffler that Masters Sunday, his runner-up position was validating.

“Augusta proved to me like, yeah, you can actually be there and contend on a Sunday,” he said. “The golf course played very difficult; it demanded a lot of patience and discipline, just like this one does. Those experiences that I had in April, they were great. Hopefully we’ll draw some similarities between those.”

Åberg will go off with Bryson DeChambeau in the final group at 3:35 p.m. ET.

Here’s what else to watch for Saturday at Pinehurst:

DeChambeau's 'personality blossoming' at U.S. Open
Live From the U.S. Open analyzes Bryson DeChambeau's performance in Round 2 at Pinehurst, where he's one shot from the top of the leaderboard heading into the weekend.


A different month, a different test, but DeChambeau is near the top of the leaderboard again.

It’s the ninth time in his last 10 major-championship rounds that he’s been inside the top 10.

A month after pushing Xander Schauffele to the finish at the PGA Championship, DeChambeau carded rounds of 67-69 here to sit just a shot back heading into the weekend.

Valhalla was long, wet and soft, its fairways wide, its rough juicy, its greens relatively flat and feature-less. Pinehurst is a wildly different examination that requires precision, patience and timely putting.

DeChambeau, right now it appears, is adept at it all.

Through two rounds he ranks third in the field in overall driving distance (316.3 yards) and has paid it off with a solid putting performance, including a whopping 125 feet worth of putts made in the second round. Afterward, he credited a few equipment changes – a crank driver head, the 3D irons, a putter he has entrusted since 2018 – with rebuilding his confidence and putting him in position to add a second major title to his record.

“I’m excited for the game that I have right now,” he said. “I feel pretty confident and ready to get after it this weekend.”

Rory unable to build momentum in U.S. Open Rd. 2
The Live From crew breaks down Rory McIlroy's second round of the 2024 U.S. Open, which mainly consisted of McIlroy limiting damage.


Entering the week with five consecutive top-10s in golf’s toughest major, McIlroy is positioned to bolster his reputation as a U.S. Open specialist.

Imagine that a decade ago.

McIlroy is the first to admit that his U.S. Open title at Congressional in 2011 is nothing like this test – it was long and soft, set up more like a traditional PGA Championship than an event that’s supposed to test every facet of a player’s game. Just 22 years old at the time, McIlroy sauntered his way to a commanding eight-shot victory during which he was the only player who finished double digits under par.

Now 35, McIlroy embraces this macho challenge more than he ever has. He has a greater appreciation for golf-course architecture and gives greater consideration to his shots. He enjoys the process of piecing together a score, rather than simply going on birdie binges like on Tour. He has a more balanced and well-rounded game that can withstand a five-hour stress-fest.

“You just need to have a lot of precision,” he said. “I feel like, for the most part, I’ve done that well this week.”

That’ll only become more necessary over the weekend, when the course setup is expected to get even more demanding. Leading the field in strokes gained: tee to green, McIlroy appears up for the challenge.


It hasn’t been the 2024 that Patrick Cantlay was hoping for, managing just a pair of top-10s while sliding down the Official World Golf Ranking.

He hasn’t posted the type of career major-championship record you’d expect, either.

Just a shot back of Åberg, Cantlay is in his best-ever position in a major through two rounds in what is now his 30th career appearance. His previous best spot was a tie for sixth at the 2020 Masters (went on to finish T-17).

That he’s in this position now is even more surprising.

Typically one of the game’s most efficient and tidy players, Cantlay has actually lost strokes to the field with his approach play this season. On Friday night, he said that his swing had gotten too long, and he has worked diligently with coach Jamie Mulligan over the past few months to get it in better working order.

“Nothing out of the ordinary,” Cantlay said. “Feeling pretty good, and I’ll continue to work on those feels.”

So far, so good – through two rounds, he is fourth in the field in proximity to the hole.


Recent history suggests that, in all likelihood, just eight players still have a chance to win the U.S. Open: Åberg, DeChambeau, Cantlay, Thomas Detry, McIlroy, Tony Finau, Matthieu Pavon and Hideki Matsuyama.

That’s because 26 of the past 28 U.S. Open champions were at or within three shots of the lead heading into the weekend.

But with Pinehurst’s domed greens and a hot-and-dry forecast, those who secured a weekend tee time have one goal: post a number early, then hope for some carnage late.

In that camp is world No. 1 Scottie Scheffler, who made the cut on the number after a birdie-less 74 in the second round. It was the first time in his major career that he went ’round without a birdie on his card, and when he met with reporters, Scheffler didn’t expect that his two-day total of 5-over 145 would be enough.

A 66 is the lowest score shot here through the first 36 holes. Would anyone be surprised if Scheffler hung that number on Saturday?

Jordan Spieth (+3), Collin Morikawa (+4) and Brooks Koepka (+5) are also among those teeing off in the morning, when the conditions will presumably be more ripe for scoring than the late afternoon.

Detry, once a combustible college freshman, is now a 31-year-old in the thick of U.S. Open contention at Pinehurst No. 2.


Detry, a 31-year-old Belgian, has been inside the top 10 in each of his last six major rounds. He finished a career-best fourth at last month’s PGA. It’s been a stark difference of late: After going 34 over par in his first 18 major rounds, he is now a combined 22 under in his last 10. … Pavon, a winner earlier this year at Torrey Pines, bogeyed his last two holes to drop out of a share of the lead. He ranks second in the field in putting this week. … Finau has ranked inside the top 5 on Tour each of the past two seasons in approach play. That continues to be a strength here at Pinehurst: He has hit 14 greens each of the first two rounds. … PGA champion Xander Schauffele made five birdies Friday but was derailed by a double-bogey 7 on the par-5 fifth hole, his 14th of the day. No one struck their irons better in the second round than Schauffele, who gained nearly four strokes with his approach play.