Early starts, crazy conditions knock Henrik Stenson, Dustin Johnson out of U.S. Open lead

Henrik Stenson said some of the pin positions for Friday’s second round of the U.S. Open were almost laughable. He compared putting on the fescue greens of Chambers Bay to putting on a vegetable and said he lost his patience on the eighth hole.

He doesn’t believe it’s any coincidence that both he and Dustin Johnson went from tied for first place at 5-under-par 65 after a morning round Thursday to out of the lead by the end of their afternoon rounds Friday.

“The way we’re playing this course in the afternoon compared to the morning, I don’t know, it’s borderline laughable at some of the greens and some of the pin positions,” Stenson said after falling to 1-over 139.

“We’re actually almost better off plugged in a bunker than being on the top of a ridge, like the fourth. And it’s pretty much like putting on broccoli.”

Johnson’s day was far better, hitting 7-under with a 33-foot birdie putt on 11. It initially didn’t look like he hit it hard enough, but with the green being so firm, the ball kept rolling before landing in the hole.

“I’m glad that got to the hole, nowhere else for it to go, right?” Johnson told playing partner Sergio Garcia before shaking his hand.

But Johnson finished the day at 4-under with three bogeys on the final five holes, including back-to-back on 17 and 18. He ended his second round one stroke in back of new co-leaders Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed.

Both Johnson and Stenson played 8:17 a.m. rounds on Thursday, followed by 2:17 p.m. rounds Friday. Johnson, too, said he noticed the morning play was easier than on some of the baked greens in the later rounds.

“The really hard putts are the downhill ones where you can’t just hit it, you just have to touch them,” said Johnson, who had 11 putts of three feet or less and two four-foot putts, showing just how many holes he nearly left one stroke sooner. “You are just kind of guessing.

“In the morning, the ball stops a little bit quicker and the greens are a foot or so slower. So it definitely helps the earlier you play.”

Asked if the USGA has lost track of the line between creating a tough, but also fair course, Stenson said he didn’t have an issue. But with the conditions he did.

“I don’t know what it looks like on television, what I saw this morning, but I wouldn’t say that was pretty,” Stenson said. “I don’t think the afternoon would look any better. It’s just really tough to putt on that surface. … It’s a different golf course in the afternoons.”