US Open 2017 - Some can't cut it
Post by Sports Writer Derek Clements
"IF YOU can't hit these fairways then you have no right to be here." So said Rory McIlroy on the eve of the US Open as all around him fellow players complained about the punishing rough at Erin Hills. And they were right - it is thick. But McIlroy was also right - some of these fairways are more than 80 yards wide and players of this calibre should be able to hit them with their eyes closed.
McIlroy's words came back to haunt him very quickly. He hooked his first drive on Thursday and then spent most of the following two days hacking out of the knee-high fescue as he missed the cut by a mile. And he wasn't the only high-profile casualty either.
Tommy Fleetwood was relaxed about sharing the lead at the halfway stage as the absence of some of golf’s biggest names set up an intriguing weekend at Erin Hills.
Fleetwood, who had made just one cut in his previous seven majors, birdied the last to add a 70 to his opening 67 and finish seven under par alongside compatriot Paul Casey, Brooks Koepka and Brian Harman.
With the cut falling at one over par, the entire field was separated by just eight shots – but for the first time since the rankings were introduced in 1986, none of the world’s top three will be around for the weekend.
McIlroy at least had the satisfaction of four birdies in his last six holes to improve by seven shots on his opening 78, while Jason Day’s 75 left him 10 over and world number one and defending champion Dustin Johnson finished four over. Others to miss the cut included Justin Rose, Adam Scott, Ben An, Henrik Stenson, Daniel Berger and Jon Rahm.
Fleetwood has transformed his career. Less than 12 months ago he was 188th in the world rankings but he returned to his former coach Alan Thompson and employing his friend Ian Finnis as his caddie.
The 26-year-old from Southport, who finished a shot ahead of Johnson to claim his second European Tour title in Abu Dhabi in January, said: “It’s going to be great.
“I’ve never done this before. I’ve never a led US Open, so it will be a very cool experience. It’s still Saturday, 36 holes is a very long time in a US Open.
“There are always ups and downs out there. But I think with how long the course is and how long the days are, I won’t worry.”
Speaking about the changes he made last year, Fleetwood added: “I went back to my old coach and had one of my best mates caddying and I think that can’t be underestimated, having your friend with you, whether you’re leading the US Open or playing a casual round at home.
“I think those two things and a lot of hard work have got me here really. I think it’s easy to lose track. It’s very easy to take off on your own path, and before you know it, you’re too far down there and it’s a long way back. We have come back sooner than I thought, so that’s been nice really.”
Casey came back from a ruinous eight on his fifth hole, the 14th. He had birdied the 11th and was in good shape until he fell foul of the rough but he birdied four holes in a row (the 17th, 18th, first and second) to get back to six under par, where he had started the day. It was a terrific effort by the Englishman, and it got even better when he picked up another birdie at the third for five in a row. The key to his round was his ability to find fairways, and McIlroy would be the first to admit how important that is.
And the same could be said of Andrew "Beef" Johnston, who once again proved that he is far more than a bumbling giant of a man. He plays with a smile on his face, is overweight and the crowds love him, but he has a heart of steel, and a proper golf game. He opened with a 69, three under par, and most people probably expected him to struggle in the second round, but he had other ideas. Starting at the 10th, he dropped shots at the 12th and 17th holes, but he also birdied the 16th, 18th and fifth holes before letting another shot go at the 249-yard par three sixth, a hole that was causing a lot of problems. At three under par, Johnson was just outside the top 10. He eventually signed for a 73 but could be well satisfied with his 36-hole total of 142, two under par.
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