The U.S. Open at Erin Hills in Erin, Wis., headed into the weekend with a four-way tie for the lead. Brooks Koepka, Brian Harman, Tommy Fleetwood and Paul Casey were all at 7-under par through Friday’s second round.
The four-way tie was the most after two rounds in a U.S. Open since Winged Foot in 1974, back when the names were more familiar for a major — Raymond Floyd, Arnold Palmer, Gary Player and Hale Irwin, who went on to win his first major.
The crowded leaderboard also included three players at 6 under and five more at 5 under.
Count former Taylor County and University of Kentucky star J.B. Holmes among those in the mix.
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Holmes followed his opening-round 69 with another 69 and is one shot off the lead. Friday’s round included five birdies and two bogeys.
“I like this golf course. We’ll just keep doing the same thing I’ve been doing,” Holmes said. “The same plan, and get on the fairway, and be aggressive as you can, and take your par. Get through the tough pin and get to the next hole … Hit a lot of shots probably better today than I did yesterday. It was a good round for me.”
When asked why there is so little separation among the field, Holmes said: “It’s so long. You can make a bogey kind of anywhere … Nobody’s going to make nine birdies out there. If you get four or five, that’s pretty good. You’re going to make some bogeys in there, so it’s really hard to get away from anybody.”
In all, 32 players are within five shots of the lead. That includes the other two Kentuckians in the field — former St. Xavier standout Justin Thomas and ex-Louisville Cardinal Adam Hadwin — who are both at 2-under par.
Holmes, whose best career finish at the U.S. Open is a tie for 17th in 2014, is one of the bigger hitters on the PGA Tour. But, despite the considerable length of the course, the game’s other big hitters aren’t up front with him.
“It’s still golf,” he said. “You’ve got to make putts. Some of it almost takes the bombers out of it. But a 675-yard par-5, nobody’s hitting to that. So that kind of takes the advantage away from the bombers. … You've got to hit them in the right spots out here and make some tough putts.”
The last six majors have been won by first-timers, and that cycle has a good chance to continue. The top 18 players on the leaderboard going into the weekend have combined for zero majors.
Holmes expects the scoring to get more difficult over the final rounds.
“It always does that,” he said. “Every time you have a difficult golf course, they’ll jump out at the beginning, and Rickie (Fowler) had that great run yesterday, and he’s seeing 7 (under par). Today really kind of stayed the same. Still 7 (under par).”
Missing the cut
The biggest surprise at this U.S. Open was not who was leading, but who was leaving. Dustin Johnson, Rory McIlroy and Jason Day — the top three players in the world, all of them professing expansive Erin Hills to be perfect for their games — spent Friday cleaning out their lockers after missing the cut.
Johnson was hitting it so well that he appeared to be safe even when he was on the cut line. But then he three-putted from long range on the 13th and the 14th, and lost all hope when he missed the green on the 17th while going after the flag. He shot 73 and missed the cut by three.
“I couldn’t have shot any higher,” Johnson said. “I couldn’t possibly shoot any higher than I did. I just struggled on the greens. It’s simple.”
Day never had a chance, following his career-worst 79 in a U.S. Open with a 75. McIlroy came to life when it was far too late. He made four birdies over the last six holes to salvage a 71, but he still missed the cut for the second straight year.
Joining them with a weekend off — British Open champion Henrik Stenson, Alex Noren, Jon Rahm, Justin Rose and Adam Scott. That left only four of the top 12 in the world to play the weekend.