Maybe Phil Mickelson got too much rest, or maybe the course got too hard.
Mickelson had a much better run at Merion Golf Club when he jetted in at 4 a.m. on Thursday and shot a three-under-par 67 on two hours sleep.
The second round featured Mickelson frittering away his first-round lead and then, on the difficult par-four finishing hole, making his only birdie of the day to reclaim a share of the lead.
It was so Phil-like. His finishing birdie was only the ninth on No. 18 in two days. It is the toughest hole on course playing to average of 4.7 strokes.
With second-round play halted because of darkness, Mickelson got into the clubhouse with a second-round 72 to join Billy Horschel as co-leaders at one-under 139 through 36 holes.
Sixty-eight golfers out of 156 have yet to complete their second rounds.
Horschel and Mickelson lead a pack of what seems like dozens who could still win the 113th U.S. Open.
Horschel shot three-under 67 earlier in the day and looked like he would be the solo eader Friday until Mickelson sank his putt in a setting sun.
Among those one-shot back at even par include Luke Donald, Steve Stricker, Justin Rose, Ian Poulter and 21-year--old amateur Cheng-Tsung Pan, playing not for a sponsor but in the colors of his school: the University of Washington.
Nineteen players, including Tiger Woods, are only four shots back at three over. Woods bounced back from his three-over 73 in the opening round with an even-par 70 to find himself in contention for his 15th major, but first since the 2008 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines.
Horschel played a brilliant round on a torturous course, hitting all 18 greens in regulation.
"It was a great day," said Horschel, who played college golf at Florida. "Four birdies at a U.S. Open, I'll take it."
He should take it and run.
Merion has proven to be a beast of a set-up after predictions that wet weather and soft conditions would turn the championship into a dart board.
ESPN Stats & Info reported at one point late Friday that the field was a collective 1,286 over par. The wicker-basket pins weren't very accessible and it showed all day on scorecards and players' faces.
Merion is not very long at 6,901 yards but the second round played to an average of five over 75.
Phil Mickelson has back-to-back bogeys to lose the lead | 4:21 p.m.
It had been looking like Phil Mickelson's U.S. Open to lose and, as we all know, he's lost plenty of them.
Mickelson has yet to record a second-round birdie at Merion Golf Club and is starting to leak ball-cleaner water. He has fallen out of the lead and to even par after a disastrous three-putt bogey at the par-four 12th hole and a bogey at the par-three No. 13.
Steve Stricker birdied No. 13 to join Billy Horschel (in the clubhouse) and Justin Rose (on the course) as leaders at one under.
In other news ... you half expected Arnold Palmer to burst out of the bushes at No. 9 to tell the encroaching threesome of hackers: "While we're young?"
The United States Golf Assn. has been running commercials all week using Palmer as an advocate for increasing pace of play in the snail-crawling world of golf.
USGA President Glen Nager said at a slow-play news conference earlier this week, "It's now become one of the most significant threats to the health of the game."
The USGA could have used Palmer on Friday after the grouping of Bubba Watson, Dustin Johnson and Nicholas Colsaerts were put on the clock for slow play as they butchered some of Merion's most precious real estate.
Watson, Johnson and Colsaerts took so long at the par-three ninth hole they could have almost been considered homesteaders.
All three hit into the hazard and Johnson and Watson both shot double-bogey fives on the hole, while Colsaerts made a bogey. Watson followed with another double at the par-four 10th.
Not bad for a kid: Gavin Hall, the youngest player in the field at 18, is 11-over 151 through 36 holes and probably won't make the cut. He followed a first-round four-over 74 with a 77 in the second round.
Hall started his college career at UCLA but has enrolled at Texas for the fall.
His highlight was a first-round eagle at the par-four No. 8 hole.
Hall said he wasn't that nervous for his first U.S. Open: "The only different part is there's a lot of spectators," he said.
Phil Mickelson opens round talking to his golf ball | 3:10 p.m.
Ever talk to your golf ball?
"Oh, come on, baby!" is what Phil Mickelson said as his second shot on No. 8 left his club from the fairway.
For good reason.
Mickelson knew his shot was a beauty and watched his ball spin backward on the green and come within a inch of rolling in for an eagle 2.
Then, however, Mickelson blew the four-footer for birdie and walked away with a disappointing par to stay at two under.
Mickelson seems determined to keep this anyone's tournament to win.
The number of golfers who might win can be narrowed to, oh, about the top 60 and ties. Wait, isn't that the cut line?
Yes and yes.
Merion is a tight course at 6,901 yards and also has a very crowded house on the leader board. Approaching 3 p.m. PT there were more than 60 players within seven shots of Mickelson's lead.
Merion is winning the fight as only three players (Mickelson, Justin Rose and Billy Horschel) are under par and only Horschel is safely in the clubhouse at one under.
Oops, make that two players under par as Rose slipped back to even after a bogey at the par-four sixth hole.
Mickelson and Rose still have more than half of their second rounds to complete. Mickelson is holding steady as he has made six straight pars after his opening bogey, but please note he still has the toughest stretch left to play.
Horschel earned fib-of-the-week with his comment after Friday's three-under 67: "It's another tournament," he said of the U.S. Open.
It is good to be confident, though. Horschel is in fine position after playing 29 holes Friday. He hit all 18 greens in his second round.
"It's not the first time I've hit all 18 greens," he said. "I've done it plenty of times in my career."
Do it two more times and you'll probably be this year's U.S. Open champion.
Notable: Louis Oosthuizen, the 2010 British Open champion, has withdrawn with a hip injury. He said he strained a hip flexor shooting five-over 75 in the first round. He pulled out before the start of his second round. Oosthuizen said he risked further injury if continued playing. His best U.S. Open finish was a tie for ninth in 2011.
This just in from social media: @IanJamesPoulter tweeted this Friday:
Hahahaha just looked at the first round. How wrong everyone was. What happened with the field shooting 62. Give #Merion some respect.— Ian Poulter (@IanJamesPoulter) June 14, 2013
Poulter is still hanging tough at one over through four holes of his second round.
Phil Mickelson clinging to U.S. Open lead | 2 p.m.
The leader of the 113th U.S. Open started each of his first two rounds with a bogey.
Yeah, Merion has been that tough (blame it on the rough).
Mickelson is still clinging to his lead at two under though he appears in trouble at the par-four fifth.
He recovered from his bogey at No. 1 with a nice par save at the par-five second, knocking his third shot close from a fairway bunker. Mickelson actually missed a great shot at birdie when his putt slid left of the hole.
The round of the day so far belongs to Billy Horschel, the former Florida Gator, who shot three-under 67 and hit all 18 greens in regulation. He stands at one-under 139.
Things didn't go so well for three former US. Open champions: Angel Cabrera, Graeme McDowell and Jim Furyk. These guys, if you can believe it, are a combined 44 shots over par through two rounds.
They won't be playing the weekend, even though the cut right now is projected at nine over. "I putted poorly, I drove the ball poorly, just things you can't do at a U.S. Open," Furyk, who could have been speaking on behalf of the group, said.
Tiger Woods update: He said after his second-round 70 he injured his left elbow at the Players' Championship: "It is what it is," Woods, using one of his most popular responses, said. Does Tiger still like his chances?
"Yes," he said. "Just keep grinding. You just don't ever know what the winning score will be."
Here are the grisly mid-day course statistics: Merion is playing more than five shots over par at 75.50. The only hole playing under par is the short, 123-yard par-three 13th (2.92). Toughest hole is the 219-yard, par-three ninth (3,69), followed by the par-four 18th (4.62). The course played to a first-round average of 74.21.
Tiger Woods wraps up second round | 1 p.m.
Tiger Woods has left the Merion arena so now all eyes focus on Phil Mickelson, who picked up ground on the field while... sleeping.
Mickelson just started his second round at three-under overall. He and Nicholas Colsaerts (one under) were the only players in the field under par. But for how long?
Mickelson made bogey five on No. 1 and brought every one closer to the top.
Tiger Woods recap: Five years ago he won the U.S. Open at Torrey Pines limping on a left knee so badly his 14th (and last) major victory would be followed by major surgery.
Woods is dragging another left limb at the 113th Open, only this time it's his arm. Woods is clearly suffering some sort of left elbow ailment that puts his chances in jeopardy.
Woods completed his second round Friday with a series of grunts and grimaces as he fought to stay in contention.
The good news is Merion is playing so tough that no Mickelson lead appears safe.
Woods clearly had one of his "grind it out" rounds. He muscled a third shot out of the rough and ended up with a birdie on the 628-yard par five fourth hole. Most amateurs, citing orders from their doctor, would have picked up after hitting into rough that deep.
The birdie got Woods to two-over, only five shots back. He then made a great par save at No. 5 but gave a shot back after chunking a green-side chip at the par-four seventh.
Woods followed his three-over 73 in the first round with an even-par 70.
It wasn't a good first two rounds for the "Supergroup" of Woods, Rory McILroy and Adam Scott. The world's top three players are a combined 13-over par. McILroy is three-over while Scott, this year's Masters winner, is seven-over.
Luke Donald had the lead at one point Friday at four-under before an awful stretch where he bogeyed five of six holes. He fell to plus one overall but made two terrific shots on the par-three ninth to go to the clubhouse at an even-par 140. He followed his opening-round 68 with a two-over 72 and left the course trailing Mickelson by only three.
"I'm very satisfied to be even par," he told NBC right after his round. Donald scoffed at suggestions Merion would be an easy mark this week.
Said Donald: "I didn't quite believe 15-under was going to win this thing."
Phil Mickelson's lead grows | Noon
The way things are going at the U.S. Open today – i.e.: bogey-fest -- Phil Mickelson might want to stay on the practice range.
Mickelson has opened a lead at Merion Golf Club simply by way of his late tee time for the second round, remaining at three under while the rest of the field disappears.
Luke Donald, Russell Knox, Mathew Goggin, K.J. Choi, all of them slipped away with a stretch of mistakes on an unforgiving course that warmed steadily under sunny Pennsylvania skies.
At one point in the afternoon, Tiger Woods showed signs of building momentum. Then came a missed birdie putt at No. 6 and a bogey from the rough just off the green at No. 7. At three over par, he was set to finish his second round with a several favorable holes in the middle of the course.
As for the rest of his star-studded group, Rory McIlroy was also at three over and Adam Scott had fallen to seven over.
Only three players were under par as 3 p.m. EDT approached, Mickelson joined by Nicolas Colsaerts and a hot Billy Horschel, both at one under.
A handful of marquee names –--including Jason Day, Tim Clark, Charl Schwartzel and Rickie Fowler -- stood at even par with their tee times approaching.
Television coverage showed Mickelson warming up, looking relaxed on the range. The tough part is ahead for him.
Golfers continue to have problems with Merion course | 11:04 a.m.
Maybe Lee Westwood and Peter Hedblom shouldn’t feel so bad.
Both stood near the top of the leaderboard during the first round of the U.S. Open but fell well off the pace Friday, giving up a handful of strokes. They had some company.
Merion Golf Club continued to play significantly tougher on the Open’s second day, even with the track drying beneath relatively sunny skies. The field’s scoring average had risen by nearly half a stroke -- to 74.41 -- through midday. Nearing 2 p.m. EDT, only three players had scores under par.
Phil Mickelson held the lead at three under, maybe because he had yet to tee off. Luke Donald was at two under, Nicolas Colsaerts at one under and a pack of eight golfers followed at par.
As was the case on Thursday, players were riding a roller coaster. Donald bogeyed the par-five second hole, rebounded with a birdie on the third and bogeyed the fourth.
The hottest hand on the course belonged to Martin Kaymer, who bounced back from a fairly awful first round to shoot three under through the first 12 holes of his second.
This is a quirky course with only two par-five holes. Measuring less than 7,000 yards, it actually got shorter on Friday.
The tee boxes on two of the longest par-threes were moved up, with No. 3 reduced from 246 yards to 203 and No. 17 cut from 243 to 206. No. 13 also took a chop to 102 yards.
But the rough and pin placements have been treacherous enough to keep scores from dipping down. Russell Knox of Scotland seemed relieved to finish his rain-delayed first round with a 69.
“I’m thrilled,” he said, adding: "It’s hard, though."
Mathew Goggin a surprise in third place | 10:11 a.m.
No one should be surprised to see Phil Mickelson and Luke Donald atop the leaderboard midway through the second round at the U.S. Open.
But Mathew Goggin? That’s an unexpected name.
Goggin has played sporadically on the PGA Tour over the last 13 years. This season, he has been stuck on the smaller Web.com circuit, where he ranks 14th among the money leaders.
On Friday, the 39-year-old Australian stood tied for third place at Merion with a score of 1-under through four holes. He was facing a long day, finishing his rain-delayed first round in the early morning, then coming right back for an additional 18.
“Yeah, actually it’s a good thing though,” he said. “Because if you play well, you can get into a nice flow because you get to play, finish your round, go straight back out there and play again.”
The golf wasn’t flowing quite as smoothly for the 1-2-3 group of Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy and Adam Scott.
The three top-ranked golfers in the world could not find much of a rhythm through the early going at Merion, with Woods at four over, Scott at three over and McIlroy at two over.
Mickelson was not scheduled to tee off for his second round until almost 4 p.m. EDT.
None of the well-known players need a good Open showing as much as Goggin, who has scratched out $122,978 at Web.com tournaments this season, a relative pittance in the world of professional golf.
Asked about his good start after Thursday’s play, he said: "Yeah, I’ll take it for sure."
Watch Carl Pettersson's ball get hit during backswing | 9:48 a.m.
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It’s not very often that golf qualifies as a contact sport, but Carl Pettersson had one of those rare moments at the U.S. Open on Friday morning.
Finishing his rain-delayed first round, playing an iron from the No. 5 fairway, Pettersson was in the midst of his backswing when an ill-struck shot from an adjacent hole bounded toward him.
The errant ball hit Pettersson’s ball, knocking it right out from under him. The golfer nimbly stepped aside and looked up with a “What the?” expression on his face.
Despite the interruption, Pettersson was able to make par on the par-four, 504-yard hole. He stood at four-over through five holes of the second round.
Luke Donald, Phil Mickelson share the lead | 9:08 a.m.
Staging a U.S. Open at Merion Golf Club required more than just stringing the ropes, setting up tents and plugging in television cameras.
With a footprint of about 111 acres, the smallish course in Ardmore, Pa. – a suburb of Philadelphia – simply wasn’t built with a modern-era major in mind.
Some greens do not have enough space to accommodate fans, which on Friday led to golfers sinking long putts to the sound of … silence.
Officials had to build temporary locker rooms and a removable pedestrian bridge. The driving range at Merion’s East Course was used for structures, meaning that players must warm up at the West Course range, a mile away.
“I think that there's a number of people who like to go straight off the driving range, hitting that last tee ball and trying to envision them being on the first tee and hitting that -- replicating that same tee shot,” Matt Kuchar said earlier in the week. “It's going to be 20 or 30 minutes I think from the range to when you actually tee off.”
Friday morning, overhead TV shots showed crowds lining narrow spaces along the fairways as a number of players shifted up and down the leaderboard.
Luke Donald stood at 1-under for the day, putting him in a tie for first with Phil Mickelson at 3-under. John Senden, with a couple of birdies, stood one stroke back.
Rory McIlroy and Geoff Ogilvy also looked strong at the start of the second round, rising to 1-over and 2-over, respectively. But Peter Hedblom was headed the opposite direction, dropping two strokes to fall to 2-over.
Lee Westwood, briefly in contention on Thursday, slipped to 3-over with a bogey on No. 11 and a double-bogey on No. 13.
Tiger Woods was treading water. After a birdie on No. 13, he missed a tricky, downhill putt for par at No. 14 and returned to 3-over.
The rain-delayed first round finally came to an end at 11:35 a.m. EDT.
Luke Donald takes the lead | 8:21 a.m.
If players are looking to make birdies at the U.S. Open this week, their best chance lies in a stretch of holes at the middle of Merion Golf Club.
On Friday morning, Luke Donald took advantage.
Starting second-round play on the No. 11 tee, Donald birdied two of his first three holes to move back into the lead at four under, a stroke ahead of Phil Mickelson.
Among the early tee times, K.J. Choi also showed signs of making a move with a birdie at No. 1, rising into a tie for fourth at one under.
It has been a busy morning at Merion, with nearly half the field teeing off at 7:15 a.m. EDT to finish the rain-delayed first round. Only five players finished under par after 18 holes, with conditions even trickier this morning.
The course is playing longer, the greens speeding up.
"It's unbelievable how much faster they were this morning,” said Tiger Woods at three over. “They should slow up a little bit by this afternoon, but there's still quite a bit of moisture in them so I think that the uphill, into-the-grain putts are really slow and then obviously the downhill, down-grain putts are really quick."
Maybe it’s better not to putt at all. Amateur Gavin Hall avoided all that drama by holing out his second shot for an eagle on the par-five eighth hole.
Officials were hoping for a calm day but the weather could become a factor again, with forecasts calling for scattered thunderstorms in the late afternoon.
Phil Mickelson moves up while sleeping in | 7:13 a.m.
Phil Mickelson made a bold move up the U.S. Open leaderboard on Friday morning -- presumably from the comfort of his bed.
A stroke off the lead at Merion Golf Club as of Thursday night, Mickelson had the luxury of being able to sleep in because he wasn’t scheduled to tee off for the second round until 3:41 p.m. EDT.
But much of the field had to get up early to finish the first round, some makeup play required by Thursday’s weather delays.
The first-day leader, Luke Donald, struggled with Merion’s tough final stretch, dropping two strokes and settling into second place at two-under. Mickelson is at three-under.
Apparently, with no rain overnight, the greens had gotten faster.
"There was a complete switch in wind and obviously a big drop in temperature,” Donald said. “So those holes are playing long."
The morning session was equally tough on Adam Scott, who slipped from two under to two over, playing in the marquee group with Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy, both of whom finished at three over. Woods mused about several missed putts.
“Round could easily have been under par,” he said.
The world’s top-ranked golfer also talked -- albeit briefly -- about the obvious pain in his left arm, which caused him to wince as he hit out of the rough on several occasions Thursday.
“It is what it is,” he said. “You move on.”
With the first round finally drawing to a close, only five players stood under par at Merion. Mathew Goggin was at two under with Donald, while Nicolas Colsaerts and Russell Knox were at one under.
“One, it’s colder,” defending champion Webb Simpson said. “And, two, the wind is blowing a different direction.”
The second round was scheduled to begin around 9:45 EDT.
Merion challenges despite short length | 6:00 a.m.
If anyone expected Merion Golf Club to roll over and play dead for the U.S. Open, they know better heading into a new day of golf on Friday.
The site of this year’s championship may be short by modern standards -- just under 7,000 yards -- and it may be soft from a week’s worth of rain, but it proved far from easy during a truncated first round in which only 15 players broke par.
“Everyone on TV was saying we’re going to rip this course,” Jason Day said after his even-par 70. “I can’t see it. You still have to hit balls in the fairway. It’s not as easy as everyone thinks.”
Though some of the par-fours seemed downright diminutive, there were several long par threes and enough twists and turns to test the world’s greatest golfers Thursday. Marshals reported that at least eight balls were hit out of bounds on No. 15 by late in the day.
“It’s a lot tougher than they say,” former Masters champ Charl Schwartzel said after shooting 70. “There’s nothing short about it.”
Pin placement nullified the advantage that golfers usually enjoy in damp conditions. Jerry Kelly explained: “Every single one of them was in the back. You can’t get to them on soft greens.”
Two weather delays prevented nearly half of the field from completing 18 holes, so the first round will resume at 7:15 a.m. EDT on Friday. Luke Donald, currently leading at four under, knows he has a tough stretch of holes waiting for him along the back nine before he reaches the second round.
And the rest of the players suspect that Merion’s layout will continue to challenge.
“Plus you add a U.S. Open, the name and trophy,” Day said. “There’s a lot of pressure to play well.”
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