Åberg Beats the Heat, Field for 36-Hole Lead at Pinehurst

By David Shefter, USGA

| Jun 14, 2024 | Village of Pinehurst, N.C.

Åberg Beats the Heat, Field for 36-Hole Lead at Pinehurst

Mother Nature turned up the heat on Friday at Pinehurst Resort & Country Club as temperatures soared into the 90s. But the second round of a U.S. Open is always played in a cauldron, whether the mercury approaches triple digits or the patience of the 156 competitors just reaches a boiling point.

Intensity, elation and frustration are all tangible characteristics that can be found as the pressure mounts just to play the weekend.

While many expected Course No. 2 to extol a measure of revenge on this talented group of 140 professionals and 16 amateurs – and a few succumbed to Donald Ross’ masterpiece amid the heat and humidity that engulfed the North Carolina Sandhills – a good number of players maintained their cool.

OK, so first-round co-leader Rory McIlroy stumbled a little bit from his brilliant opening-round 65 to shoot 2-over-par 72. Nevertheless, the 35-year-old Northern Irishman’s 3-under total of 137 kept the 26-time PGA Tour winner within striking distance of ending a 10-year major-less drought. Patrick Cantlay, Thursday’s other co-leader, also slipped to a 1-over-par 71 but only is a shot back from the lead.

The midway leader is a 24-year-old Swede looking to become the first since amateur Francis Ouimet in 1913 to win the U.S. Open in his first attempt. That would be Ludvig Åberg, a lanky 2023 Texas Tech graduate who was the runner-up in his first-ever major-championship start at the Masters Tournament this past April. Åberg was one of 22 players to post a sub-par score on Day 2, carding a 1-under 69 to go along with Thursday’s 66 for a 5-under total of 135.

The course played nearly a half-stroke easier on Friday (72.8) than in Thursday’s opening round (73.25).

Lurking one stroke behind is 2020 U.S. Open champion Bryson DeChambeau, of Grapevine, Texas, already with a runner-up finish (PGA Championship) and a share of eighth (Masters) in majors this year, Thomas Detry, of Belgium, who tied for fourth in last month’s PGA Championship, 2024 Farmers Insurance Open champion Matthieu Pavon, of France, and eight-time PGA Tour winner Cantlay, of Jupiter, Fla., seeking his first major title despite a decorated career that includes two Ryder Cup appearances. DeChambeau, Detry and Pavon posted rounds of 69, 67 and 69, respectively.

McIlroy and long-hitting Tony Finau, of Lehi, Utah, like Cantlay a multi-time PGA Tour winner without a major title on his résumé, sit two strokes back. Finau, whose best U.S. Open finish is solo fifth in 2018 at Shinnecock Hills, backed up a first-round 68 with a 69.

Hideki Matsuyama, the 2021 Masters champion who became the first male player from Japan to win a major, produced a bogey-free 66 on Friday – joining McIlroy and Sergio Garcia to achieve that feat – to move into solo eighth at 138.

Six others are at 1-under 139, including the 2024 PGA champion Xander Schauffele and Raleigh, N.C., resident Akshay Bhatia, bidding to become the first left-hander to win a U.S. Open.

Once again, 2020 U.S. Open champion Bryson DeChambeau finds himself in position to win another major title. He's coming off a solo second at last month's PGA Championship at Valhalla Golf Club. (USGA/Matt Hahn)

Once again, 2020 U.S. Open champion Bryson DeChambeau finds himself in position to win another major title. He's coming off a solo second at last month's PGA Championship at Valhalla Golf Club. (USGA/Matt Hahn)

The cut of low 60 and ties came at 5-over 145 and included world No. 1 Scottie Scheffler, past U.S. Open champions Matt Fitzpatrick and Brooks Koepka and 2018 British Open champion Francesco Molinari, who aced his final hole, the par-3 ninth, to jump from 7 over to 5 over.

Last year at this time, Åberg was embarking on a professional career after several All-American seasons in Lubbock, Texas. It didn’t take him long to make an impact, as he won the DP World Tour’s Omega European Masters and was a captain’s pick for Luke Donald’s European Ryder Cup Team that triumphed in Italy. Last fall, he won the PGA Tour’s RSM Classic at Sea Island Golf Club in Georgia, and continued his fine form into 2024 before a knee injury slowed his progress at last month’s PGA Championship, where he missed the cut.

Over the course of two rounds, nobody has been better at playing typical U.S. Open golf than Åberg, who has hit 26 of 28 fairways and 30 of 36 greens to lead the field. That has taken the pressure off trying to be creative around the inverted-saucer putting surfaces that typify Course No. 2.

“This being my first one, I think a U.S. Open is supposed to be hard,” said Åberg, who got a taste of Pinehurst five years ago when he qualified for match play at the U.S. Amateur. “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. But super fortunate with the way that things have turned out over the last couple days, and hopefully we'll be able to keep it up.”

A few years ago, DeChambeau, who also won the U.S. Amateur and NCAA Division I individual title in a magical 2015 season, looked like Lou Ferigno in a polo as he hit the gym and ingested thousands of calories a day in an effort to bulk up. More recently, however, he’s trimmed down and focused more on nutrition without given up too much distance. It’s led to better results, at least in the majors where he came up one stroke short of Schauffele last month at Valhalla Golf Club and contended into Sunday at Augusta.

He had a roller-coaster Friday with five birdies against four bogeys yet finds himself in the hunt for major title No. 2. In 2020, he was the only player under par at Winged Foot in posting a six-stroke win. He’s also posted a pair of victories on LIV Golf, including at the Greenbrier in West Virginia where he carded a 58.

“I'm not really focused on the total strokes gained for the most part, just trying to execute the best shot I can every single time under the conditions because it's going to be different,” said DeChambeau. “This golf course is not going to be the same come tomorrow and the next day, and I'm expecting that. Us competitors, players, have to adjust to those conditions accordingly. Look, I'm excited for the game that I have right now. I feel pretty confident and ready to get after it this weekend.”

Detry, 31, took a different approach to his preparation for Pinehurst. Instead of playing early in the morning or during peak hours, he chose to practice in the twilight, coming to the course at 4 p.m. and spending at least 20 minutes on each green to understand the nuances of these unique putting surfaces. It looks to have paid off for the former University of Illinois All-American who arrived in Champaign lacking a great short game. On Friday, he needed just 28 putts and gained 3.25 strokes on the field, which ranked first in Round 2. Only a couple of closing bogeys on Nos. 6 and 8 – his 15th and 17th holes of the day – curtailed what could have been a 65.

“Especially with the late tee times I had [on Thursday], it was nice to see the course,” said Detry, who has averaged 1.68 putts per round. “I was still on the golf course Wednesday at 7 p.m. [You] kind of see the course and the conditions of play as close to what it's going to be during tournament day.” 

Through two rounds at Pinehurst No. 2, Thomas Detry, of Belgium, has his game dialed in to win a possible maiden major title. (USGA/Jeff Haynes)

Through two rounds at Pinehurst No. 2, Thomas Detry, of Belgium, has his game dialed in to win a possible maiden major title. (USGA/Jeff Haynes)

What’s Next

The 71 professionals and three amateurs who made the 36-hole cut will play an additional 36 holes on the weekend at Pinehurst No. 2. The third round will begin at 8:44 a.m. EDT. Broadcast coverage begins at 10 a.m. on USA Network and then switches over to NBC at noon.


  • Sepp Straka registered the 52nd known hole-in-one in U.S. Open history when he aced the 194-yard ninth hole with a 7-iron. There were three holes-in-one last year at The Los Angeles Country Club. It was the third ace recorded at a Pinehurst U.S. Open, following Peter Jacobsen in 2005 on the ninth hole and Zach Johnson in 2014, also at the ninth.

  • Several hours later, Francesco Molinari, the 2018 British Open champion, aced the same hole to go from 7 over for the championship to 5 over and make the 36-hole cut. In 2005, his brother, Edoardo, holed out from a bunker for birdie on the ninth hole at Merion Golf Club, his 36th of stroke play, to get into a playoff for match play at the 2005 U.S. Amateur, and then won the championship. Francesco is the first player to ace his final hole to make the cut in U.S. Open history.

  • Sam Bairstow, a lefty from England, didn’t make the cut in his first U.S. Open, but the 25-year-old departed Pinehurst with a good taste in his mouth after a 17-stroke improvement from Round 1. Following an 84, the highest score among any competitor this week, he rebounded with a 3-under 67. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, he’s the first golfer in U.S. Open history to shoot a round in the 80s and then break 70 in Round 2. It also was the biggest two-round improvement by a player since Scott Gregory (92-75) in 2018 at Shinnecock Hills. The championship’s largest two-round improvement is 19 strokes, achieved by several players, including Earl Puckett (93-74) in 1965 at Bellerive Country Club.

  • World No. 1 Scottie Scheffler had just his second birdie-less round as a professional and first since shooting 2-over 72 in the final round of the 2022 Charles Schwab Challenge (16 pars, 2 bogeys). His only other birdie-less round in a PGA Tour-sanctioned event was the 2016 U.S. Open at Oakmont when the then-amateur opened with 69 but missed the cut. Scheffler made the cut on the number to keep his streak alive at 39 consecutive made cuts. It’s the second longest on the PGA Tour behind Xander Schauffele (49). Scheffler avoided being the first world No. 1 to miss the cut in a U.S. Open since Dustin Johnson in 2017 at Erin Hills.

  • Despite finishing 3 over par over his final four holes, defending champion Wyndham Clark made the cut at 4-over 144. Other past champions to earn weekend tee times were Brooks Koepka, Martin Kaymer, Jordan Spieth, Rory McIlroy, Bryson DeChambeau and Matt Fitzpatrick.

  • Matt Kuchar, who turns 46 on June 21, was the oldest player to make the cut.

  • Sahith Theegala rebounded from an opening-round 77 to shoot 68 and make the cut on the number.

  • Among the notables to miss the cut were past U.S. Open champions Tiger Woods, Justin Rose, Dustin Johnson, Lucas Glover, Gary Woodland and Webb Simpson, major champions Justin Thomas, Jason Day and Phil Mickelson, 2023 FedExCup champion Viktor Hovland, 2023 U.S. Amateur champion Nick Dunlap, world No. 1 amateur Gordon Sargent and hometown “hero” Michael McGowan, who is the grandson of the late World Golf Hall of Famer Peggy Kirk Bell, and grew up down the road in Southern Pines. Also failing to qualify for the weekend was 2014 U.S. Junior Amateur champion/2022 U.S. Open co-runner-up Will Zalatoris, 2023 USA Walker Cuppers Ben James and Stewart Hagestad, and 2017 Great Britain & Ireland Walker Cupper/2024 RBC Canadian Open winner Robert MacIntyre.

  • Three amateurs survived the cut led by 2023 U.S. Amateur runner-up Neal Shipley, who is planning to turn professional next week. He sits at 3-over 143 along with University of Kansas standout Gunner Broin, the only player to survive local/final qualifying and play the weekend. Florida State All-American Luke Clanton, who won the North & South Amateur at Pinehurst in 2022, fired a 69 on Friday to make the cut on the number. Shipley is trying to become the first to earn low-amateur honors in the Masters and U.S. Open in the same year since Viktor Hovland in 2019.
First-round co-leader Patrick Cantlay didn't match his Thursday 65, but the Jupiter, Fla., resident is only a stroke back of the lead heading into the final 36 holes at Pinehurst No. 2.. (USGA/Mike Ehrmann)

First-round co-leader Patrick Cantlay didn't match his Thursday 65, but the Jupiter, Fla., resident is only a stroke back of the lead heading into the final 36 holes at Pinehurst No. 2.. (USGA/Mike Ehrmann)


“It's just work, discipline [and] learning from the past mistakes you've done. The most dangerous guy is the one that learns from mistakes. That's my opinion. I failed a lot. Helped me to understand a couple things in my game, in my swing. I finally got my first win in Europe. Brings me a lot of confidence because it was showing to me and myself that we were on the right road on everything we were doing in terms of training. Then I just came to America, enjoying every moment because it's a dream come true for me. Since I'm kid, I'm dreaming about America. I came with very little and low expectations. I think probably this is what made the difference so far.” – Matthieu Pavon

“You're going to have super highs and super lows. I just saw when we were on 10, Sepp Straka made a hole-in-one, right?  Right behind us. That was a high, super high, and it was really cool to feed off that energy. Then I see guys ping-ponging it around the greens out here, and it's like, I don't want to watch that.” – Bryson DeChambeau on Pinehurst

“I think it's really important to play from the fairway. I got off track on a few holes, and it's tough to get it back in position. This golf course is going to play very challenging over the weekend, especially with the forecast that we have. So, I think being smart and being patient, it's inevitable there's going to be some mistakes made, but that's just part of playing a U.S. Open.” – Patrick Cantlay

“I was pretty much in that same position, what, a month ago at the PGA. I thought I did pretty well with it. My confidence is good. My play is good. I feel mentally stable as well. I think I've got all my chances. I think it's going to be a fun challenge.” – Thomas Detry

“You just need to have a lot of precision. I feel like for the most part I've done that well this week. I've got the ball pin-high quite a lot, which is really important. I'm not trying to land the ball pin-high. You're trying to hit it to a number with a wedge, maybe five short of that, and then with a mid-iron you're trying to land it 30 feet short of the pin to try to get it pin-high.” – Rory McIlroy

“What are the chances really. I don't even know what to say. Just incredible.” – Francesco Molinari on his ace that got him into the weekend

“Yesterday I felt like I played really well and got a lot out of my game, which I feel like I've done a good job of this year. Today was kind of the opposite. I felt like especially the back nine today, I actually hit it really well. I just couldn't get a putt to fall early. Then I had that unfortunate deal on No. 5 which probably on any other golf course if I hit those two shots, driver, 3-wood into a green on a par-5 and probably have a pretty good look at birdie, I'm not going to have walking off with a 7. But just unfortunate place for me to put myself.” – Scottie Scheffler after his 4-over 74

“It's a fun course to play, as mentally tough as it is, because there's just some holes where normally [at a] U.S. Open you think about long rough, long golf courses. But this week it's still kind of playing long, but there's no rough and there's just waste areas. For me, I've been doing a really good job of just kind of positioning myself consistently, doing the right things, missing in the right spots. I think that's what this golf course brings out of you.” – Tom Kim after a 68

“Perfect number for me. Tried to land it 185. It was a really good swing. Fortunately, [it] rolled out and went in the hole. I had one of my best friends playing with me today, J.T. [Poston]. He was there for my ace at Augusta [National] during the par 3 [contest], as well. Our celebration this time was a little bit better.” – Sepp Straka on his hole-in-one

“Frustrating. I'm not here for the weekend. Granted, my ball-striking and felt like my putting was good enough to be in contention, and I'm not.” – Tiger Woods on not playing the weekend

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