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A Weird, Wild and Entirely Typical Day on the U.S. Open

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BROOKLINE, Mass. — M.J. Daffue of South Africa, ranked 296th on the planet, was not invited to the hospitality tent alongside the par-5 14th hole through the second round of the U.S. Open on Friday. But when his tee shot got here to rest on the tent’s carpeted balcony next to a tree trunk, fence railing and overhanging, leaf-filled branches, Daffue was welcomed to the party.

Eschewing the security of a free drop on nearby grass, Daffue, who was leading the U.S. Open on the time, decided to make use of a 4-wood to smack his ball across the tree trunk, over the railing and under the branches to the 14th green 278 yards away.

Nick Faldo, an NBC analyst, yelped: “What’s he considering?”

As fans held drinks tinkling with ice nearby, Daffue implausibly curved his shot away from all of the danger and watched as his golf ball settled feet off the 14th green to establish a probability at an eagle that might extend his improbable lead.

“Made bogey as a substitute, unfortunately,” said Daffue, who never again held the second-round lead. “It was form of a crazy day trip there.”

Daffue might have been speaking for the whole field. While the primary round of the 122nd U.S. Open on Thursday featured the theater of a first-ever face-off between PGA Tour loyalists and rebel golfers who’ve defected to the Saudi-financed LIV Golf Invitational series, on Friday that drama had receded on the Country Club outside Boston.

It was replaced by something more typical for a U.S. Open: a topsy-turvy day in vexing golf-course conditions that had a cavalcade of famed and anonymous players jockeying up and down the leaderboard.

An hour before the sun set, Joel Dahmen, who has missed the cut in 4 of the nine major tournaments he has entered and is ranked one hundred and thirtieth, was tied for the lead on the halfway mark with Collin Morikawa, who at 25 is on the vanguard of the youth movement overtaking skilled golf.

Morikawa shot a four-under-par 66 on Friday to maneuver to 5 under par for the tournament. Dahmen, a well-liked, convivial presence on the tour known for the bucket hat that rarely comes off his head on the golf course, matched Morikawa with a gradual round of 68 after shooting 67 in the primary round. Dahmen, 34, has never finished higher than tied for tenth at a significant championship and has never held the 36-hole lead on the PGA Tour event. He didn’t qualify for the event until June 6 and almost skipped it to think about the remainder of the PGA Tour season.

Late Friday, Dahmen was still not awed by his standing after two rounds.

“This is basically cool, nevertheless it’s really all for naught should you go lay an egg on the weekend,” he said. “That is fun, nevertheless it can be really fun if I used to be doing this again Saturday and Sunday.”

An eclectic fivesome of golfers were one stroke behind the co-leaders: Jon Rahm, who’s ranked second worldwide; Rory McIlroy, who survived a scare on the third hole when he needed three swings to get his ball out of thick greenside fescue but still shot 69; Hayden Buckley, a PGA Tour rookie; Beau Hossler, 27, who played his first U.S. Open as a youngster; and Aaron Smart, who has one profession PGA Tour victory.

Morikawa noted that there have been greater than 20 players inside five strokes of the lead.

“Nobody has form of run away with it,” he said. “But I suppose that’s to be expected on a difficult golf course on the U.S. Open. But immediately, my game feels really good and the previous couple of days is a big confidence booster for me heading into this weekend. Hopefully, we will form of make some separation by some means.”

The unpredictability of day was personified by Buckley, 26, who didn’t play competitive golf until he was a junior in highschool and walked on to the golf team when he attended the University of Missouri.

“It’s all happened form of fast to ensure,” Buckley, who had a victory on the minor league Korn Ferry Tour before earning his PGA Tour card late last yr, said. “But I felt pretty relaxed and assured today.”

Buckley faltered in the course of his second round when he had three bogeys in five holes. But Buckley rallied to shoot 4 under in his final seven holes.

There was some normalcy to the second round. Scottie Scheffler, who sits atop the boys’s world rankings, shot a three-under-par 67 to vault into contention. Scheffler, who won this yr’s Masters Tournament and three other 2022 PGA Tour events, jump-started his round by pitching in for an eagle on the 14th hole. He didn’t do it from the hospitality tent balcony where Daffue found his golf ball, but his tee shot bounded into the thick rough 40 yards right of the outlet.

Then, in a scene that fit the day’s unusual nature, Scheffler had to attend nearly a minute while a turkey sauntered across the 14th green. Smiling, Scheffler, who shot even par 70 on Thursday, reset his focus and knocked the ball in the outlet. With a birdie on the sixteenth hole and two closing pars, Scheffler finished at three-under par for the tournament.

Collin Morikawa, the seventh-ranked player worldwide, began his round at one-under par but quickly stormed up the leaderboard with birdies on the twelfth, 14th and seventeenth holes. (He began his round on the tenth hole.) Morikawa, winner of the 2020 P.G.A. Championship, first took the second-round lead with a fourth birdie on the primary hole before registering his first bogey on the fourth hole. But he closed with a flourish, a birdie on the par-5 eighth hole to complete with four-under-par 66.

Morikawa has 4 top-10 finishes this yr, including fifth on the Masters.

Jon Rahm, the U.S. Open defending champion, began his round at one under par like Morikawa and teed off on the tenth hole. He eagled the short par-5 14th and deftly putted because the sun emerged on Friday afternoon and subtly dried out the fast, undulating greens. Rahm had three birdies and two bogeys.

Matthew Fitzpatrick of England, who won the 2013 U.S. Amateur on the Country Club when he was 18, was among the many first-round leaders when he shot 68 on Thursday. He continued his consistent, measured play with a 70 on Friday.

Two familiar names also climbed onto the primary page of the leaderboard Friday: Sam Burns, 25, who has won twice since March and finished second in one other event, shot a 67 to maneuver to two-under for the championship, and Brooks Koepka, the last man to win back-to-back U.S. Opens, shot 67 after an unsteady 73 in the primary round. Koepka was recently married, and he conceded the marriage limited the quantity of practice time he could devote to his golf game. But he said he has regained his confidence with more work out of competition.

Phil Mickelson improved on his erratic 78 from Thursday’s first round to shoot a three-over-par 73 within the second round, but his putting continued to be the worst a part of his game and he didn’t make the cut.

Mickelson, often garrulous, didn’t talk after his round on Thursday and kept things transient on Friday. Of his comeback after five months away from competition, Mickelson said: “I missed competing, but I also enjoyed a while away.”

Other outstanding players to miss the cut included Kevin Na and Louis Oosthuizen, who’ve joined Mickelson on the LIV Golf tour, and Billy Horschel, who won the Memorial Tournament earlier within the month. Also not eligible for the ultimate weekend rounds will likely be Viktor Hovland and Tommy Fleetwood.

Daffue, who finished at one under par for the tournament, was greater than content to have more golf to play.

“I’ve had goose bumps occupied with it,” he said. “I had an up-and-down day today, but to me, it’s nothing but good. I’m still going to play tomorrow within the U.S. Open.”

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