Airborne and headed right at the target, Dustin Johnson’s blind approach shot late in his second round of the 116th U.S. Open on Friday landed in a danger zone.
It plopped right on a downslope that would have carried at least 30 yards down a shaven embankment behind the green.
But defying gravity — or just a gift from the golfing gods — Johnson’s second shot to the par 4 had enough backspin to stop it on a downhill lie, 10 feet from the cup.
It indicated two things:
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▪ After nearly three inches of rainfall in the past 36 hours, Oakmont Country Club is still soft.
▪ Johnson might be so locked in, he could win his first major title.
The talented big-hitter from South Carolina made just one bogey in 36 holes Friday — an unbelievable feat on this beastly par-70 layout.
After shooting a bogey-free 67 in the morning, Johnson backed that up with a 69 in the afternoon to hold the clubhouse lead at 4-under 136.
Technically, he is a co-leader. Andrew Landry, who shot a surprising 66 in his first round Thursday, was part of a wave of golfers who won’t tee off in the second round until Saturday morning.
Very few experts expect Landry — winless on the PGA Tour and ranked 624th in the world — to back up his first-round heroics. And many expect Johnson to be leading at the midway point.
“It was a long day today,” Johnson said. “But I felt like I played really solid all day for 36 holes.”
There are other world-class golfers near Johnson: England’s Lee Westwood completed his first round Friday morning, and shot 67. He is alone in third place heading into his second round.
And Spain’s Sergio Garcia (70 in second round) and American Scott Piercy (70 in second round) are tied for fourth at 2-under 138.
American Daniel Summerhays had the round of the tournament so far — a second-round 65 — to join a seven-player logjam at 1-under with 2003 U.S. Open champion Jim Fuyrk, who tied for second the last time the national open was staged at Oakmont in 2007.
Right now, this appears to be Johnson’s tournament to lose.
And he’s done that sort of thing before.
It was less than a year ago when Johnson was standing on the finishing green at Chambers Bay, starting at a 12-foot eagle putt to win the U.S. Open.
He three-putted, and Jordan Spieth won the championship.
Johnson has been asked a lot about that final hole this season — and the subject came up Friday when a reporter asked if that putt weighed on his mind.
“What happened last year?” Johnson said with a blank stare.
It is fairly obvious he is ready to turn the page.
He became the first man to post a bogey-free round at Oakmont since Loren Roberts did in 1994.
And he became just the second golfer in U.S. Open history to start with back-to-back rounds in the 60s at Oakmont, joining Hale Irwin (1994).
“Mentally, you’ve got to make sure you stay sharp all day,” Johnson said. “You can’t go to sleep on any shot out here.”
Oakmont still feasted on many of the big names in golf Friday, notably Jason Day (first-round 75), Justin Rose (6-over late in second round), Rickie Fowler (first-round 76), Phil Mickelson (7-over late in second round) and Rory McIlroy (first-round 77).
All Landry did Friday was return to make a 10-foot birdie putt at the ninth-hole green — his final hole — to shoot 66. He became the first man to grab the outright lead after the first round in his U.S. Open debut since Bob Tway in 1986.
Landry said he was spending the rest of the day doing laundry and taking a nap.
“I told myself so many times over the years … if I get into the U.S. Open, I’ll be able to make it,” Landry said. “I’ll be able to do fine.”
(Some golfers did not start second round)
More scores, 5B