PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. -- Gil Morgan chased history yesterday at the U.S. Open. And the rest of the field at Pebble Beach chased him.
Neither proved to be too successful in their pursuit. At least not yet.
While Morgan missed two chances to become the first player in Open history to go 10-under par, he still managed to play better than nearly everyone else.
Morgan's 3-under-par 69 in the second round of the 92nd Open gave him a 36-hole total of 9-under 135 and a three-shot lead over relative unknown Andy Dillard (70).
"I don't feel very surprised [about leading]," said Morgan. "Pebble Beach is a good golf course and it's a good course for me. Every time that the conditions have been good, I've played well here."
After becoming only the second player in Open history to finish two rounds at 9-under -- Tim Simpson was at 9-under at Medinah two years ago -- Morgan watched as most of the field backed up.
Former Open champion Ray Floyd and former PGA champion Wayne Grady are five shots back. Floyd finished with a 3-under 69, and Grady shot the day's best round, a 6-under 66.
"I'm sure I've had some [back-to-back] rounds like this, but not at a major championship," said Morgan, 45.
It's doubtful that Dillard has ever played this well in a major, considering that the Open is his first. The 30-year-old Texan, who briefly played both the PGA Tour and the Ben Hogan Tour, recovered from a shaky start yesterday and finished with a birdie on the final hole.
"I'm pretty excited to make the cut and make a little money," said Dillard, whose round included a 30-foot eagle putt at No. 6, a 25-yard sand wedge for birdie at No. 14 and a 10-foot birdie putt in near darkness at No. 18.
"I'm not worried about who is in front of me or who is in back of me. I'm just going to keep doing the things I'm doing."
About the only thing Morgan didn't do was get to 10-under. The first opportunity Morgan had to reach that magic and elusive number came at the 431-yard, par-4 eighth hole.
But Morgan, who started the round 6-under and birdied Nos. 1, 5 and 7, bogeyed there and fell back to 6-under with bogeys at Nos. 9 and 11 as well.
The next chance came after Morgan got it back to 9-under with birdies at Nos. 13, 14 and 16. He hit a stunning 8-iron to within 10 feet of the hole on the par-5 18th, but bailed out a bit and left the ball inches below the hole. It seemed like everyone but Morgan knew he was flirting with history.
Asked what he thought about the possibility of going 10-under yesterday, Morgan said, "I didn't know that was a statistic."
As for reaching 10-under today, Morgan said, "That would be great. It would help me, but I don't know how much. It would be significant to put my name in the record books."
Even if he doesn't get to 10-under, Morgan could still get into the Open's record books. Should he hold on to win the 92nd Open, Morgan would become the oldest champion in the tournament's history.
Morgan will be 46 in September, and would be a little more than seven months older than Hale Irwin was when he won the 1990 Open at Medinah.
"I'm going to try to do as good as I can out there," said Morgan, who hasn't won since the 1990 Kemper Open. "I'm going to go out and play my game and try to make some birdies. There are going to be some bogeys out there and you have to understand that."
Floyd, who won the 1986 Open at Shinnecock Hills when he was 43, is not handing the silver cup and the $275,000 first-prize check over to Morgan just yet.
"You could lose an Open with one or two rounds, but you can't win an Open with one or two rounds," said Floyd, who at 49 remains an ageless force on the PGA Tour. "He obviously has the game, but that doesn't mean he's going to win."
Morgan was the only player who began yesterday's round at or near the top of the leader board to pick up a few strokes. In fact, except for Dillard, Morgan found a mostly new bunch of challengers following him.
Phil Mickelson, whose pro debut resulted in a 4-under-par 68, had an early sophomore slump with a second-round 81 and missed the cut by two shots. Steve Pate went from an opening-round 68 to 80 yesterday and missed the cut by one.
Two-time Open champion Curtis Strange, who started one shot off the lead, and former British Open champion Mark Calcavecchia, who began at 2-under, each got to 7-under before collapsing badly.
Strange began the round with birdies on two of the first three holes, but finished with a 78. Calcavecchia shot a wild 73 after an eagle on the 502-yard second hole and birdies at Nos. 4, 5 and 6.
"I wouldn't say I panicked, but maybe I was pressing a little when I got it to 7-under," said Calcavecchia, who bogeyed Nos. 8 and 9 and would finish at 1-under 143. "I'm just not good at playing conservative golf."
By the time he had finished a round that also included four birdies and seven bogeys, Calcavecchia had enough. He slammed his putter into the ground at No. 17 and flung his ball into the water at No. 18 after finishing with three straight bogeys.
"The way I was going, I was lucky to run out of holes," said lTC Calcavecchia, who fashioned his own version of the rally cap by flipping his visor on backward. "But that doesn't matter. If I shoot 67 tomorrow, I'll be right back in it."
If Morgan shoots 67 today -- and given the current conditions of no wind and somewhat softened greens, it is not an impossibility -- he could close the Open out quickly.
But Morgan has had a history of fast starts in majors -- and slow burns. He led the 1976 PGA Championship at Congressional after two rounds, only to shoot a third-round 75 and fade into an eighth-place tie. He didn't want to think about that today. At least not yet.
"I don't know what's going to happen to tell you the truth," said Morgan.
Maybe a little history here at Pebble Beach.
The leader . . .
Gil Morgan .. .. .. .. .66-69135 . . . and selected followers
Raymond Floyd .. .. .. .71-69140 Wayne Grady .. .. .. .. 74-66140 Colin Montgomerie .. .. 70-71141 Anders Forsbrand .. .. .71-70141 Dan Forsman .. .. .. .. 72-70142 Fred Couples .. .. .. ..72-70142 Greg Twiggs .. .. .. ...72-71143 Mark Calcavecchia .. .. 70-73143 Tom Kite .. .. .. .. .. 71-72143 Hale Irwin .. .. .. .. .73-70143 Craig Stadler .. .. .. .71-72143 John Cook .. .. .. .. ..72-72144 Donnie Hammond .. .. .. 73-73146 Fred Funk .. .. .. .. ..72-75147