Johnson Powers Way to 36-Hole Overnight Lead
OAKMONT, Pa. – Andrew Landry’s Friday at Oakmont Country Club featured one 10½-foot putt on the ninth green that took all of a few seconds. Dustin Johnson, meanwhile, spent 12-plus hours on property, and took 136 strokes.
Both stand at 4 under par on Friday night in the 116th U.S. Open Championship, albeit at vastly different stages.
Thanks to three weather delays on Thursday, half the field never hit a shot, forcing the first round to carry into Friday and creating a marathon Friday for those in the original afternoon wave.
Landry, a 28-year-old Texas native who is a PGA Tour rookie, played 65 strokes on Thursday. His 66th dropped shortly after 7:30 a.m. EDT on Friday when the first round resumed, thanks to yeoman’s work by the Oakmont maintenance staff and its volunteers to get the saturated course playable for the world’s best golfers. Landry arrived sans caddie or golf bag, needing only his putter to finish the round. Since spectators weren’t allowed on the property until 8 a.m. due to course conditions, only a handful of people saw him post the best first round in any of the nine U.S. Opens at Oakmont.
After signing his score card, Landry departed to do laundry and relax, knowing he wouldn’t begin his second round until 7:11 a.m. on Saturday.
Johnson, the 2015 U.S. Open runner-up, was one of 78 golfers not to hit a shot on Thursday, but the nine-time PGA Tour winner managed to finish his first and second rounds on Friday, posting 67-69 to become the overnight 36-hole leader at 4-under 136.
Of those who have completed 36 holes, Johnson leads Sergio Garcia (68-70) and Scott Piercy (68-70) by two strokes. Daniel Summerhays, an alternate from the Powell, Ohio, sectional qualifier who got into the field on Monday, is another stroke back at 139 after carding a championship-best 65 in Round 2 on Friday.
A total of 47 players completed 36 holes on Friday (Peter Hanson finished but was disqualified for an incorrect score card). The 78 golfers originally scheduled to play Friday afternoon will begin their second round Saturday morning at 7 a.m. The USGA hopes to make the cut to the low 60 and ties early Saturday afternoon and start the third round in groups of three off the first and 10th tees.
One person who can relax Saturday morning is Johnson. His grouping, which included Garcia and Hideki Matsuyama, finished just before play was suspended for darkness at 8:42 p.m.
Halfway through the championship, few can match Johnson’s tee-to-green game. At one point, Johnson hit 25 consecutive greens in regulation. He also played his first 27 holes bogey-free, ranking him fourth since the USGA began keeping such figures in the mid-1980s (Rory McIlroy played 35 bogey-free holes en route to victory in in 2011).
Johnson is no stranger to leader boards in major championships. He owns five top-10 finishes in the U.S. Open and eight in the other three majors combined. Last year, he finished in the top 10 in all but The Open Championship at St. Andrews.
To win here, he’ll likely need to improve on the greens. On Friday, Johnson hit 20 of 28 fairways and 31 of 36 greens. But while he ranks No. 2 in driving distance (318.75) and No. 1 in greens in regulation, he is tied for 105th in putting (1.81 per green). He consistently gave himself quality birdie chances, but only converted five. He three-putted the par-5 fourth hole twice after reaching the green in two.
“The greens, they’re so hard to putt,” said Johnson, who three-putted the 72nd green from 12 feet in last year’s U.S. Open at Chambers Bay to lose by a stroke to Jordan Speith. “No matter how close you are to the hole, they’re tough to putt. I hit so many good putts today that I thought were going in, and they burned the edge or lipped out.
“It was a long day today, but I felt like I played really solid for all 36 holes. I drove it really well. I hit a lot of great iron shots. So, I’m very pleased with how it went today.”
Garcia, another player seeking his first major title despite 20 victories between the PGA and PGA European tours, was another golfer who left Oakmont in good position. He holed a 51-foot par putt on No. 9, his last of the round, to complete an even-par 70. His drive found deep rough in a ditch left of the fairway, and after hacking out to the fairway, the Spaniard’s third shot found the putting surface.
The 36-year-old was also happy to get some rest after a grueling day on what he calls one of the most difficult championship courses.
“My legs, I'm too old for this,” said Garcia, who missed the cut in the 2007 U.S. Open at Oakmont, but has three top-10 finishes, most recently in 2011 at Congressional Country Club (T-7). “I'm very happy to finish at 2 under. I didn't play that great this afternoon, but I thought I scrambled nicely and I made a couple big putts when I needed to.”
Speaking of putts, Summerhays, 32, of Farmington, Utah, shot 5-under 30 over the inward nine, including a stretch of five consecutive 3s. His round ended with a 93-foot putt from just off the 18th green to 7 feet, which he converted for par.
“That was a round to remember,” said Summerhays, adding that it likely was the best round of his career. “I need to think a lot about that round, just sear it right into my memory. It’s definitely going to be one that I can push the replay button on at times where you don't feel like you quite have it. That was really special for sure.”
Given the marathon day, the players were given an extra 45 minutes between rounds to eat and hit the reset button.
Now Johnson, Garcia, Summerhays, Piercy and others will wait out the finish of the second round on Saturday morning to see where they officially stand. Landry is one who has to hit a lot more shots.
And hopefully by dusk on Saturday, this weather-delayed U.S. Open will be back on schedule.
David Shefter is a senior staff writer for the USGA. Email him at email@example.com.