Oakmont is separating the men from the boys...in the press room.
Nice to see some lively reporting filed Friday night, starting with John Huggan's game story:
Some, of course, will love that the pampered millionaires have been humbled yet again by the gray-haired and blue-blooded blazer brigade, but for every one of those deriving vicarious pleasure from such a spectacle there will surely be ten real golfers squirming at just what the game at the highest level has become in the 21st century.Fast forward...
Still, for all that, the championship continues to breathe beneath the blanket of long grass that all but covers the magnificent Oakmont course. And, as such, there is a competition to talk about, one that is led by perhaps the two longest hitters in the field, a man called Angel (Cabrera) on level par, with another named Bubba (Watson) one shot back. Ames, Justin Rose, Niclas Fasth and Aaron Baddeley are two over par and two shots off the pace.
Angel and Bubba? Justin and Aaron? Niclas? Whatever happened to good old golf names like Arnie and Jack? Gone the way of persimmon apparently.
Indeed, almost every hole was a bit of a struggle for Woods, his two birdies more than swallowed up by the six bogeys that littered his card. But, for all that, he claimed to be enjoying himself.Derek Lawrenson on Paul Casey's brilliant 66:
"The U.S. Open is a fun challenge," he claimed, convincing no one in the process. "It's always going to be tough and you have to grind away. That's the fun part of it; it's just so different from any other tournament we ever play in."
And for that at least, we must all be grateful.
So call off any planned debate right now about the round of the year. We have just witnessed it, complete with a dazzling array of statistics.Golfweek's Jeff Rude talks to Paul Goydos about the 66:
On the narrowest fairways possible without risking the accusation of unfairness, Casey missed only one; on the hardest greens by miles anywhere in the world, he had 10 single putts, and only 26 in all.
We should have no fear, therefore, in placing it alongside Monty’s fabled 65 in the 1997 U.S. Open at Congressional as the best round played by a British player in this event since Tony Jacklin became the last one to win it in 1970.
"Without a doubt, it is the best round I have ever played," said Casey. "This is the toughest course I have seen and I feel very lucky to walk off with a 66."
“Johnny, are you listening, I think that’s better than your score -- by a lot,” said opinionated journeyman professional Paul Goydos, the former inner-city schoolteacher who wins once every decade or so on the PGA Tour. “That’s stunning. I don’t get it. There’s just no way. I want to know what hole he skipped.”
Lawrence Donegan reporting for The Guardian on the setup:
Or to put it another way, it quickly became clear yesterday that the USGA had once again turned its annual golf tournament into a festival of indignity, or a fearsome fiesta of double-bogeys, or indeed a farce. To the wrist-cracking rough and bowling-alley greens that marked day one, the organisers added murderous pin positions, and Mother Nature's mischievous nephew threw in a nasty little breeze. The result was as predictable as it was relentless. Leaderboards quickly became engulfed in the blue of bogeys, leaving the occasional red birdie looking like a distress beacon flickering against the perfect golfing storm.
The Pittsburgh Tribune Review breaks down stats from round 2.
Mr. Negative Peter Kostis, who Thursday predicted the 36-hole lead would be even par and the cut at +10, was his usual curmudgeonly self over at golf.com:
Oakmont is ... "brutally hard, but I'm not sure if Oakmont is truly a great test of golf. I'm sorry, but I don't think hard automatically means great. Do you have any idea what the following players have in common: Tim Clark, Adam Scott, Padraig Harrington, Nick O'Hern, Phil Mickelson, Paul Casey, Zach Johnson, K.J. Choi, Sergio Garcia and Henrik Stenson and 18 other guys? They are the 28 players who did not score a birdie on Thursday. If competitors are forced to play defensively all the time, that's not a great setup. I think there must be a blend of holes where you can make birdie with good shots and bogeys with bad shots."
TIGER WOODS: It's close. It's right on the edge, I think. The first green, that was -- thank God I have spikes on, because I think it would have slipped right off the back.
Lorne Rubenstein notes Stephen Ames and Mike Weir's excellent play and offers this from Weir:
After he heard that Phil Mickelson, for one, had described the rough as "dangerous," Weir said he had the sort of shot there where he could have done some physical damage to himself.
"You could see somebody injuring himself trying to hit some kind of creative shot," Weir said, adding he was trying a shot in practice from the rough and had to ice his wrist down after his session.
Many players believe the USGA has gone overboard with the rough this year. "Some guys, with the [club] speed they get, they could hurt themselves," Ben Curtis said.
But it's not easy for anybody to know how to challenge the best players these days, because they hit the ball so far. The USGA along with the Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews long ago dropped the ball in not, well, controlling how far the ball can go. Now, they're left with pushing courses to the edge, and, sometimes, over the edge.
Even that's okay, and understandable. But dangerous?
Ames said a player usually can tell when trying a shot will cause an injury. But what if he had to pull off a shot that could potentially win the championship for him? What if trying the shot could cause a serious injury?
"I'll just hack it out," Ames said. "Taking that opportunity to end my career? I won't do that."
More disheartening was news that 16-year-old Richard Lee also was injured, making him the second player to withdraw because of a wrist injury.
The youngest player in the field didn't make the cut at the U.S. Open. He didn't even make it to the end of his second round. Richard Lee withdrew after 13 holes Friday with a wrist injury. The 16-year-old was 11 over for the day, 20 over for the tournament when he stopped.
``I am disappointed,'' he said. ``But I'm still happy that I came here this week to this wonderful golf course, Oakmont. A lot of history to this course. It's an honor that I played here.''
Lee was trying to chip out of the rough beside the green on the par-4 11th when he tweaked his right wrist.
``I took a full swing at it because it was all the way down there,'' he said. ``After that shot, I was like, `Whoa, what happened to my wrist?' I was just trying to concentrate, but I couldn't. There was a lot of pain.''
Lee played the 12th and 13th holes and then withdrew.
Tim Dahlberg says the guys are whining too much considering it's the US Open and that they have to grin and bear it. Of course if it goes over the top, Dahlberg will return to his usual eloquent self and join the chorus.
Dan Gigler on the Post-Gazette blog deals with a ridiculous question asked of Jim Furyk.
One reporter asked Jim Furyk if the extreme difficulty of the course at Oakmont somehow mirrored the gritty "blue collar" image of Pittsburgh. Uhhh ??? sure. That's a bit of a reach, don't you think? Oakmont is a Pittsburgh treasure and we should be proud that our city is for this week, the epicenter of the sports world, but let's be honest here: it's a golf course on a country club, that probably has close to a six-figure initiation fee, and an annual membership fee in the range of most "blue collar" workers salaries. I don't think Joe Magarac played Oakmont very much.
Mark Soltau talks to Jeff Brehaut, all around good guy who makes the cut in his first major in 21 years as a professional.
The third round pairings are here, with the leaders going off at 3:15 EST. Considering it took everyone around 5:15 today, hard to imagine the boys finishing tomorrow's round before NBC's planned sign-off time.
And finally, a Simon Bruty image for golf.com of Geoff Ogilvy that the opponent of bathing a course in high rough surely won't be using for his autobiography cover...