Reed Midway Leader As Winged Foot Shows True Colors
September 18, 2020 Mamaroneck, N.Y. By David Shefter, USGA
Patrick Reed emerged as the 36-hole leader on a challenging day for scoring on Friday at Winged Foot. (Darren Carroll/USGA)

What Happened

Different day, totally different outcome. Winged Foot Golf Club might have absorbed some hits from the field on Thursday, but A.W. Tillinghast’s West Course rebounded with several knockout blows in Friday’s second round of the 120th U.S. Open Championship.

Slightly chillier temperatures, a bit more of a breeze (10-15 miles per hour with gusts to 20) and some challenging hole locations restored the 7,458-yard, par-70 layout to beast mode. While Day 1 yielded an unprecedented 21 sub-par scores, just six golfers were still in red figures after 36 holes. The scoring average went from 72.56 – the second-lowest first-round average behind only Baltusrol in 1993 – to 75.25. That increase of 2.69 strokes from Round 1 to Round 2 is the largest in U.S. Open history (Pinehurst in 1999 was the previous high at 2.58).

With winds switching to a northerly breeze, many competitors went south.

First-round leader Justin Thomas, whose 65 on Thursday was the lowest score ever posted in a Winged Foot U.S. Open, hit only three fairways en route to a 73. Rory McIlroy, the 2011 champion, went from a 67 to a 76. Lee Westwood, at age 47 still seeking his first major title in his 83rd start, shot a 76 after an opening 67. Matthew Wolff, the 21-year-old wunderkind who is coming off a tie for fourth in the PGA Championship, also fired a 76 following his sizzling 66.

Amateurs were not immune, either. University of Georgia All-American Davis Thompson, who briefly led the championship on Thursday and became one of four amateurs to break 70 on the West Course in a U.S. Open, missed the cut (6-over 146) by a stroke with a disappointing 78.  Chun An Yu, No. 3 in the World Amateur Golf Ranking®, carded an 80 after an even-par 70.

But a few competitors emerged unscathed on Friday. Patrick Reed rolled in a 5-foot birdie putt on the par-5 ninth hole – his last of the day – to finish off an even-par 70. Combined with a 4-under 66 on Thursday, he holds a one-stroke lead over Bryson DeChambeau. Reed, the 2017 Masters champion, hit only half the greens in regulation, but his exquisite short game consistently bailed him out. He leads the field in overall strokes gained (11.08) and average putts per green (1.39).

“I love the grind,” said Reed. “I love getting in there. I love when it's hard, when you have to be creative on all different golf shots.”

DeChambeau, whose aggressive game plan drew a few rolled eyes at the outset of the week, has thus far proved the critics wrong. His power game produced a 2-under 68 for a two-day total of 3-under 137. The native Californian is the only player to shoot consecutive rounds in the 60s.

He specifically prepared for Friday’s weather conditions with a range session at dusk on Thursday. He hit 7 of 14 fairways and 12 greens in a 5-birdie, 5-bogey round that also included a closing eagle, one of five made on No. 9 in Round 2.

“My wedges yesterday weren't that good,” said DeChambeau when asked about the late range session. “I was flying them too far and I wanted to know what the problem was. We didn't practice them as well as I should have leading up to this tournament, but we made that adjustment, and it worked out beautifully for me today.”

One of those wedge shots was his 178-yard, pitching-wedge approach to the ninth.

Bryson DeChambeau has kept to his game plan of being aggressive off the tee through the first two rounds at Winged Foot. (Kohjiro Kinno/USGA)

Thomas, Harris English and Rafa Cabrera Bello sit two back of Reed. Cabrera Bello and English were two of the 10 golfers to post par or better, each shooting 70s. Jason Kokrak is the other golfer under par through 36 at 139 after a second-round 71.

Just three players broke 70 in Round 2; DeChambeau, Bubba Watson (69) and Hideki Matsuyama (69), both of whom sit in a group of five players at 1-over 141.

Given the expected difficult conditions on the weekend, nobody seems out of the championship.

“I felt the greens have got maybe a smidge quicker and a bit firmer, but I also felt like some of the pins were a little bit tougher, harder to access today,” said Cabrera Bello, who has never finished better than T-32 in six previous U.S. Open starts. “Obviously more of a U.S. Open setup that you would expect. I'm sure the weekend is going to be very challenging.”

Notable

  • The 36-hole cut to the low 60 and ties came at 6-over 146. Past U.S. Open champions to make the cut included world No. 1 Dustin Johnson, Lucas Glover, Rory McIlroy and Webb Simpson. Some other notables included major champions Adam Scott, Jason Day, Zach Johnson, Louis Oosthuizen and Bubba Watson.

  • Gary Woodland became the first defending champion to miss the cut since Johnson in 2017 at Erin Hills. Woodland carded rounds of 74-74.

  • Other notables to miss the cut included past U.S. Open champions Jordan Spieth, Tiger Woods, Justin Rose, Martin Kaymer and Graeme McDowell, as well as Phil Mickelson, the runner-up at Winged Foot in 2006, and 2019 U.S. Senior Open champion Steve Stricker. Also missing the cut was Collin Morikawa, who won last month's PGA Championship.

  • Amateur John Pak, from Scotch Plains, N.J., a member of the victorious 2019 USA Walker Cup Team, was the only Metropolitan New York-area player to make the cut, and the lone amateur out of 13 to accomplish the feat. Brandon Wu, of Scarsdale, N.Y., and Fresh Meadow Country Club professional Danny Balin, of White Plains, N.Y., each posted 10-over 150 and failed to make the weekend after hitting the opening tee shots on Thursday.

  • Notable amateurs who failed to make the weekend include 2019 U.S. Amateur champion Andy Ogletree, 2020 McCormack Medal winner and current world No. 1 Takumi Kanaya, 2019 McCormack Medal winner Cole Hammer, 2019 U.S. Junior Amateur champion Preston Summerhays and 2019 U.S. Mid-Amateur champion Lukas Michel.

  • The last three players to complete the opening round, which was suspended by darkness on Thursday, finished on Friday morning at 8:33.

  • No bogey-free rounds were recorded over the opening 36 holes, matching 2018 at Shinnecock Hills, and most recently before that, 2013 at Merion Golf Club.

  • Current Iona men’s basketball coach Rick Pitino watched some of the action from a home behind the third green. Pitino coached the University of Kentucky to the national title in 1996, and also led Providence College and the University of Louisville to the Final Four during his career.

  • Matthew Fitzpatrick, the 2013 U.S. Amateur champion, holed out on the fly for an eagle 2 on the 15th hole from 136 yards out. He went on to miss the cut by one stroke.

  • Viktor Hovland celebrated his 23rd birthday by carding a second consecutive 71 to make the cut. The 2018 U.S. Amateur champion was the low amateur last year (T-12) at Pebble Beach in his last event before joining the professional ranks.

  • There were 11 rounds in the 80s on Friday, the most in a single round since 29 were posted in Round 1 at Shinnecock Hills in 2018. Only one player failed to break 80 on Thursday, a record for a Round 1 in a U.S. Open (the previous low in any Round 1 was two).

  • Andrew Putnam withdrew four holes into his round on Friday due to a back injury.

Quotable

“I want it to play as hard as possible. I feel like there's so many holes out here that I can take advantage of that some people can't. Now, that doesn't mean that I'm going to win or anything. You've still got to execute. If I'm hitting the driver far but all over the place, you can't make birdies from the rough. I still have to work on hitting it straight while hitting it far. And that's a unique combo that I'm going to strive [to accomplish] for the rest of my life.” – Bryson DeChambeau on his mindset

“It's a better position than I've been in a U.S. Open before. This isn't exactly a place where you go out and try to shoot 6 or 7 under to catch up. [I] just have to stay patient and play my own game. I'm not going to worry about what everyone else is doing because you could shoot 80 just as easily as you could shoot 68.” – Justin Thomas, on being two strokes behind at the midway point

“You're going to have to make some hard pars out there. You're going to hit it in the rough some, you're going to miss some greens, and just got to figure it out.” – Harris English, one of six players in red figures after 36 holes.

“Any time you're under par at an Open, you're doing really well.” – Jason Kokrak, who is at 1-under 139

“I don't really like to feed off of other people's problems. I try to handle my own business. It's sort of what I was taught to do, let the clubs talk, and that's what we'll continue to do.” – Xander Schauffele (68-72–140) when asked about his fellow competitors

“I think still on this golf course with the conditions that we're supposed to have the next couple days, I don't feel like I'm out of it. I'm going to have to play really well, but I like where I'm at. I think obviously two solid rounds and right back in the mix.” – Dustin Johnson (73-70–143)

“U.S. Opens I just think you've got to hang around. Ideally you don't want runs of holes where you drop four shots in three holes [like I did on Friday], but 3 over is by no means out of it. Then you've just got to play solid over the weekend and see what happens.” – Lee Westwood (67-76–143)

“The greens finally dried out. It was a difficult afternoon. If there's any breeze [this weekend], over par is winning.” – Adam Scott on his mindset despite being 9 strokes back

“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, it's going to be a hell of a test this weekend.” – Tiger Woods on Winged Foot

“The last six weeks have been frustrating pain-wise (torn labrum in left hip). I feel like [my game is] in a pretty good spot, doing things really well and I just can't get around the pain. It's frustrating. Especially because this meant a lot to me coming back here defending. I put a lot of time and effort into it, and if your body doesn't let you do it, you just can't do it, and that's frustrating.” – Gary Woodland on his disappointing week

“I’m going to head home and take a few weeks off and go from there.” – Phil Mickelson after missing the cut

David Shefter is a senior staff writer for the USGA. Email him at dshefter@usga.org.