Twice champion Retief Goosen of South Africa produced a typically ice cool display to move into a share of the lead at the halfway stage of the US Open Championship during what was a great day for many of The European Tour contingent – especially Sweden’s Peter Hedblom, who put together a brilliant four under par 66 to set a US Open Championship record for the treacherous Pinehurst No.2.
Trailing by one at the start of the day, Goosen posted a level par 70 to finish on two under par 138, to tie for first place with the American duo of Olin Browne and Jason Gore, while European Tour Members Michael Campbell of New Zealand, Sergio Garcia of Spain, Fiji’s Vijay Singh and Englishman Lee Westwood kept themselves in contention in a tie for sixth place on level par 140 going into the final 36 holes.
Of that quartet, Campbell and Garcia both went under par during round two with 69s, while Singh carded a second consecutive 70 and Westwood a two over 72 after his opening 68.
Adam Scott of Australia is just one stroke behind his four European Tour colleagues in a seven way tie for tenth position alongside World Number One Tiger Woods, while Hedblom’s superb effort gave him a three over par aggregate and took him to within one stroke of England’s Luke Donald.
Browne, who shot a 59 in qualifying ten days ago to book his place at Pinehurst, returned a 71 after letting slip a one stroke cushion with four holes to play, while Gore, who missed the cut in his only previous US Open appearance in 1998, vaulted up the leaderboard late in the day with an excellent 67.
“Every hole is pretty much a bit of a grind out there,” said World Number Five Goosen. “It’s all about saving pars and making the right putts. The wind was quite tricky today and it's not going to be easy this weekend.”
According to Woods, another double US Open champion, Goosen has the perfect credentials for this the second Major of the 2005 season.
“It’s mainly his attitude,” said Woods after signing for 71. “He’s very calm, very cool and very patient, and that’s the way you have to be. I mean, you can't have highs and lows at a US Open because it'll bite you. This golf course is set up very similar to how Shinnecock played, hard and fast. The fairways are unbelievably fast and it's tough to keep the ball in the fairway.”
Goosen, who won his first US Open at Southern Hills in 2001, clinched his second 12 months ago in a brutal last-day at fast-running Shinnecock Hills.
Known for his unflappable temperament and ability to grind out pars on tough layouts, the 36 year old has felt at home in US Opens since missing the cut on his first two appearances in 1998 and 1999.
“For some reason I seem to do a lot better in this one,” Goosen continued. “I suppose once you've done it once, you sort of feel like you can do it again. I suppose it’s more of a confidence thing that when you're out there, you feel just a little bit more comfortable than you probably would do in any of the other Major events.
“I'm excited about this weekend and hopefully I can keep it up and see if I can win it for the third time.”
Aside from Goosen, Browne and Gore, South Korea’s K J Choi and Australian Mark Hensby are the only other players under par at the halfway stage, but, after his record breaking 66, Hedblom must have felt as good as any player in the field at the end of day two.
Asked where his fantastic round had come from, the 35 year old Swede replied: “That's golf. I mean, the game is so strange. You come up here some weeks and everything is perfect; you feel good and you shoot 75. And then today, I didn't feel that good, but I just played every shot trying to hit the simplest shot for me, the easiest shot for me to get it on the green, and that worked today.
“Obviously holing a lot of putts is going to help, especially because my putting hasn't been good this year, but today I started holing some longer putts. That's the key around here because you're never going to shoot it close every time.
The halfway cut fell at eight over par with Australia’s Nick O’Hern (three over par), BMW Championship winner Angel Cabrera of Argentina (four over), the Danish duo of Thomas Björn and Søren Kjeldsen and Australia’s Peter Lonard (five over), the English pair of Nick Dougherty and Ian Poulter (six over), South Africa’s Ernie Els and Scotsman Colin Montgomerie (seven over) and Frenchman Thomas Levet, Northern Ireland’s Graeme McDowell and Irishman Paul McGinley (eight over) joining the aforementioned European Tour stars in making it into the final two rounds at Pinehurst No.2.