Hole to hole, move for move, USGA executive director Mike Davis aims to keep the field of elite golfers at the 115th U.S. Open championship flailing a step behind.
Yet, two 20-something American golfers intuitively seem to know how to keep up on Chambers Bay better than the rest.
Patrick Reed and Jordan Spieth also got a taste of Davis’ championship setups at the 2010 U.S. Amateur on this same layout.
Coincidence they’re beating the leading drum at the midway point tied at 5-under-par 135?
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Under calmer, softer conditions, Spieth made his move in the morning with a 67 — his lowest round of the championship.
When the afternoon sun came out and the course firmed up to tabletop status, Reed kept it together with a 69 — even after a finishing bogey.
Now these 2014 U.S. Ryder Cup teammates get to tee off in the last pairing for the third round Saturday.
Lurking one shot back at 136 are South Africa’s Branden Grace (67), a six-time winner on the European Tour, and reigning WGC-Cadillac champion Dustin Johnson (71).
Seven other golfers sit within three shots of the lead.
From the moment Reed stepped foot on Chambers Bay as a high-profile amateur from Augusta State back in 2010, he seemed to take to the links-style layout. He set the course record with a 68 during stroke play.
He has backed that up with two more rounds in the 60s this week.
“I feel very confident with the driver,” Reed said. “I feel like I’m swinging as hard as I want to, and it’s going to be on the fairway.”
Did he freely swing the driver in that manner back in 2010?
“Five years ago,” Reed said, “I swung as hard as I possibly could, knowing me.”
And yet, Reed assessed his Friday effort as subpar. He made six bogeys, many of them on loose shots. And he three-putted from 55 feet for a final bogey on the finishing hole.
“I hit the ball in the middle of the green on No. 18, and had no chance to putt a normal putt and stop near the hole,” Reed said. “I had to play Mickey Mouse golf to try and make par.”
Spieth’s attack is two-headed. While he missed the cut at the 2010 U.S. Amateur, caddie Michael Greller — who was on Justin Thomas’ bag at the time — did not.
Spieth made four birdies on his first nine holes, but it ended ugly with a double bogey at No. 9.
And his tee shot sailed into the left rough. He was visibly hot under the collar.
“Michael did a great job coming in and telling me, ‘Sit back, you’re still very much in this tournament, don’t let this get to you,’ ” Spieth said. “The second something gets to you, you’re in trouble in a U.S. Open.”
Spieth recovered to hit a wedge pin-high and drill a 14-footer for birdie. He birdied the ninth hole as well.
“This golf course is going to test your nerve,” Spieth said. “It’s how you rebound from it.”
In particular, these fine fescue greens continue to test every last nerve of the competitors.
They were fast. They were bumpy. And putts seemed to zig-zag off line at inopportune times, especially in the afternoon.
Afterward, Sweden’s Henrik Stenson ripped into the greens, saying it was like “putting on broccoli.”
Tee to green, it was no picnic, either.
On Friday, the USGA flipped the first hole to a par 5. The additional yardage pushed the front nine to 4,020 yards — the longest nine holes in U.S. Open history by 115 yards.
Phil Mickelson (74) and Rory McIlroy (72) struggled Friday, but still made the cut. Tiger Woods (76) did not at 16-over 156 – his worst career 36-hole score as a professional.
It was also just his fifth missed cut in 68 majors — and second at a U.S. Open.
“On a golf course like this, you get exposed. You have to be precise and dialed in,” Woods said. “And obviously I didn’t have it.”
And while University Place’s Michael Putnam (147) and Puyallup’s Ryan Moore (149) missed the cut, one of the Pierce County contingent — Tacoma’s Troy Kelly (145) — got in.
All the way until the final five minutes of play, Kelly was outside the cut line. But after amateur Nick Hardy missed a 30-footer for par on his final hole, it let 15 golfers, including Kelly at 5-over, back in.
Kelly said he is certainly cherishing every moment of this national open. It is his first made cut at a major.
“It’s been a lot of fun. I’ve had people hooting and hollering my name,” Kelly said. “I never get to experience that out there on tour.”