10 Stats to Know: Round 2, 122nd U.S. Open
A tightly packed leader board is topped by two players at 5 under par as we head to the weekend in Brookline, Mass. Through two days, 23 players are at or within four strokes of the lead. The last time we had more players within that range through 36 holes of the U.S. Open was in 1996.
With so many intriguing storylines, the next two days at The Country Club are going to be anything but predictable. Here are 10 Stats to Know from Round 2 of the 122nd U.S. Open:
1. Two-time major champion Collin Morikawa is tied for the lead, the first time he has led at the halfway point of a major championship. Morikawa is trying to add to his rapidly decorated trophy case: this week is just the 11th major championship start for the two-time major winner. Since the first Masters was held in 1934, the fastest any player has got to three major wins is 12 starts, by Australian legend Peter Thomson. The last player to get to three professional major wins faster was the legendary Bob Jones, who played in nine combined U.S. and British Opens before claiming his third win.
This is the third time Morikawa has opened a major championship with back-to-back rounds under par. The other two instances? The 2020 PGA Championship and 2021 British Open Championship – both Morikawa victories.
2. With a win this weekend, Morikawa would become just the fifth player in men’s golf history to win three legs of the career Grand Slam before age 26. The men to accomplish that feat are Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy and Jordan Speith. But this championship is, of course, a long way from finished. Consider this: this marks the fifth time since 2003 that a multiple major-winner has led or co-led the U.S. Open through 36 holes. None of the previous four men to lead in that span – Vijay Singh (2003), Retief Goosen (2005), Woods (2012) or Phil Mickelson (2013) went on to win.
While Morikawa’s approach play has been the strongest aspect of his game in his young pro career, he’s getting it done differently through two rounds this week. Morikawa has gained more strokes on the field putting (3.35) than with his approach shots (2.46).
3. Tied with Morikawa through two rounds is Joel Dahmen, who got into this championship via a T-9 finish at the Columbus, Ohio, qualifier. Though Dahmen is a winner on the PGA Tour, this is the first time he has held a 36-hole lead or co-lead in any official event worldwide since playing on the Canadian circuit in 2014. His previous best 36-hole position in a major championship was T-16 at TPC Harding Park during the 2020 PGA.
Though both men would love to go low on Saturday, an even-par 70 is, historically, a strong target. Since 2000, 13 of the 34 players to lead or co-lead after two rounds at the U.S. Open have shot 70 or lower in Round 3. Ten of those 13 players went on to win the U.S. Open that week.
4. Five players are tied for third, just one shot behind the co-leaders. Among them is defending champion Jon Rahm, who is trying to become just the fourth player since World War II to win the U.S. Open in back-to-back years (Ben Hogan, Curtis Strange, Brooks Koepka). The last time this championship was held at The Country Club – 1988 – defending champ Scott Simpson held the 36-hole lead. He would ultimately finish in a tie for sixth.
Rahm is the seventh defending U.S. Open champion in the last 40 years to be inside the top five through 36 holes. That list includes both Koepka in 2018 when he went back-to-back (T-4 through two rounds) and Strange in 1989 (led through two rounds). Rahm has been overpowering Brookline with his driver: through two days, he leads the field in strokes gained off-the-tee, a statistic he also leads the PGA Tour in this season.
5. Also in the group at one shot back is Rory McIlroy, who righted the ship Friday after an early double bogey that could have wound up far worse. Rory drained a 25-foot putt for double bogey on the third hole after struggling with the high greenside fescue. If he wins, it could be looked at as his most important shot of the championship: since 1990, players to win the U.S. Open have combined to make 21 double bogeys. They have made just one triple or worse – Tiger Woods did that, incredibly, in his 15-shot romp at Pebble Beach in 2000.
This is the third time McIlroy has started a U.S. Open with back-to-back rounds in the 60s. He also did it in 2011, when he won wire-to-wire at Congressional, and in 2019 (finished tied for ninth). McIlroy’s round of 69 on Friday gave him 14 career rounds in the 60s, the most all time by a European player in this championship.
6. Just two shots back sits world No. 1 Scottie Scheffler, who is trying to become the seventh man to win the U.S. Open and Masters Tournament in the same season (there have been eight occurrences, as Ben Hogan did it twice). Scheffler’s round of 67 tied the lowest of any player Friday in the early wave, and at 3 under he is tied for the best 36-hole score of any player who went out late/early in the first two rounds. Scheffler is trying to join Woods as the only sitting OWGR top players to win the U.S. Open. Woods did it three times.
Scheffler turns 26 next week, but could give himself an early birthday present straight out of the history books this weekend. Only four players in the modern era have won multiple majors in the same season before the age of 26: Jack Nicklaus (1963), Tiger Woods (2000), Rory McIlroy (2014) and Jordan Spieth (2015). Scheffler is the field leader in strokes-gained approach through two days.
7. This is the first time that the world’s No. 1, 2 and 3 players have each been inside the top 10 of a U.S. Open through 36 holes since 1995. That year, Greg Norman, Nick Price and Nick Faldo were each in that position entering the weekend. Incredibly, none of them went on to win – Corey Pavin, who wasn’t exactly an underdog as world No. 9 – won his first major championship.
Could that be a harbinger of things to come for world No. 9 this week? Pavin was tied for 11th in 1995 through two rounds, four shots off the lead. This week, world No. 9 is Sam Burns, tied for 13th place, just three back.
8. All seven players at 4 under or better through two rounds went out in the early wave Thursday and played in the afternoon on Friday. In all, players from the early-late half of the draw had a 36-hole total score 1.6 strokes lower than their counterparts on the other side.
Friday was one of the lowest scoring pre-cut days in U.S. Open history. Among Rounds 1 and 2, the field average Friday of 71.99 was the second-lowest in championship history, behind only Round 2 in 2003 at Olympia Fields (71.91). In the afternoon Friday, the field had a scoring average of 71.45, more than a stroke and a half easier than the Thursday late tee times.
9. Sprinkled amidst the stars at the top of the leader board are several less-predicted names. Nick Hardy and Hayden Buckley are among the 11 players who shot in the 60s in each of the first two rounds, a rare feat in recent U.S. Opens. From 2010 through 2021, less than 1.5 percent of all players at the U.S. Open started their week with two sub-70 scores.
10. Remarkably, 23 of the last 26 U.S. Open champions were at or within two strokes of the lead through 36 holes. The lone exceptions in that span have been Webb Simpson in 2012 at The Olympic Club (6 back) and Brooks Koepka at Shinnecock in 2018 (5 back). Only one of the last 26 winners was worse than T-6 entering the weekend – that was also Simpson (T-29).
Justin Ray is the head of content for Twenty First Group. He has also worked as a senior researcher at ESPN and Golf Channel.