South Africa’s Retief Goosen, the surprise first round leader, will almost certainly hold a share of the lead heading into the third round of the US Open at Southern Hills GC in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Goosen, 32, from Pietersburg, completed two opening rounds of 66 and 70, for a two round, four under par aggregate of 136 and was tied alongside Americans, JL Lewis and Mark Brooks, when darkness fell at the end of the second day leaving a handful of golfers stranded out on the course.
Lewis, a former club pro from Horseshoe Bay, Texas, opened with two identical rounds of 68 while Brooks, the 1996 US PGA champion but winless since then, stormed up the field with a six under par 64 that tied the low second round in US Open history.
The three leaders finished the day two shots ahead of Sergio Garcia, who won the recent MasterCard Colonial tournament on the USPGA Tour, and who added a 68 to his opening 70.
America’s Stewart Cink was also two under the card and tied with Garcia after finishing in near darkness with a second successive 69.
That put this transatlantic duo in fourth place one stroke ahead of David Duval and Phil Mickelson who were alone on one under par 139. The latter returned a one under par 69, aided by a hole-in-one on the 175 yard sixth hole, the 33rd ace ever recorded in US Open history.
The second day’s play started at 7.00am and did not end until darkness fell at 8.57pm but at the end of it all Goosen was delighted to be leading the field.
“I’m very happy,” he said. “Today, I didn’t have quite as good an iron day as yesterday, but I putted well and that kept me going for a while. In the end, I missed a couple of putts over the last few holes so I suppose it could be even better.
“But I can’t complain. I am delighted to be where I am and am looking forward to the weekend.
At the end of the marathon 14-hour day, Goosen and Garcia were not the only European Tour members still harbouring realistic hopes of victory.
Behind the South African and the Spaniard, Scotland’s Colin Montgomerie (71-70), Denmark’s Thomas Björn (72-69) and Argentina’s Angel Cabrera (70-71) were all handily placed on one over par 141 ready to make a move should the leaders falter during the final two rounds.
Motgomerie, in particular was in buoyant mood, despite having to complete 26 holes during the day. “That’s not bad,” he said. “In fact it’s 100 percent better than it has been for the last five weeks.
“This is my tenth US Open and the tenth time I’ve made the cut. That’s a record I’m proud of. I can still win from here but I will have to hole a lot more putts over the next two rounds.”
Elsewhere, Sweden’s Mathias Grönberg, who came through the final qualifying at Colonial CC in Memphis, Tennessee, continued to perform well in his second US Open adding a 69 to his opening 74 to finish at three over par 143 alongside Argentina’s José Coceres (70-73) and Ireland’s Padraig Harrington (73-70). Ernie Els (71-74) and Peter Lonard (76-69) were both on 145.
Out on the course, Germany’s Bernhard Langer was two over the card thorough 31 holes. Vijay Singh was also inside the cut mark on four over par through 15 holes as was Northern Ireland’s Darren Clarke who was going along nicely until he recorded a disastrous triple bogey eight on the 13th hole, his final hole of the day, to slip to five over par for the championship. He resumes at the 14th knowing that he needs a steady finish to survive into the third round.
Under the ten shot rule, all those players on six over par 146 will make it into the last two rounds, provided the lead does not go to five under par in the morning.
If that does not happen, Eduardo Romero (74-72), Jesper Parnevik (73-73), Nick Faldo (76-70) and Gary Orr (74-72) would be among those to make it right on the bubble.
Definitely out, however, go José Maria Olazábal (77-72), Paul Lawrie (73-77), Lee Westwood (75-75) and Michael Campbell (77-77) and they could be joined by Spain’s Miguel Angel Jiménez who is at seven over par through 31 holes and Sweden’s Jarmo Sandelin who is two strokes worse with just four holes left to repair the damage.
Sweden’s Pierre Fulke, who was suffering from flu, became the second European to withdraw from the championship after pulling out straight after returning an opening 76.
“It was not worth it,” said Fulke who joined stomach bug victim Philip Price, on the sidelines. “I could have played on, but it would have meant risking my health.”
Meanwhile, Tiger Woods, the defending champion and the odds-on favourite to regain the title here at Southern Hills this week, seems certain to squeeze through the cut after rounds of 74 and 71 for a five over par aggregate of 145, his worst US Open two round total since turning pro in the middle of 1996.
Indeed, his opening 74 was the highest competitive score he has recorded for exactly one year, two months and nine days, since his 75 in the first round of the 2000 Masters. On that occasion, he went on to finish fifth after fighting back with rounds of 72, 68 and 69.
“I’ve tried,” he said. “I haven’t hit the ball as crisply as I’d like, but I’ve saved myself a few times and I’ve kept myself in the ball game.
“I was up at 4.30 this morning so it has been a long day. Now, all I can do is go home, relax and think about it. I am trying as hard as I can but sometimes thing just don’t go your way. There’s nothing you can do about it.
“But, if I can get to even par in the next 18 or 27 holes, who knows. You never know what might happen….”