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Friday, 19 March 2010

Paul Casey played the round of his life to force his way back into contention for the US Open Championship with a stunning four under par 66 leaving him just one stroke behind the early clubhouse leaders Justin Rose and Aaron Baddeley.

Punishing pin positions and lightning fast greens at Oakmont Country Club pushed the average score of the morning starters above 77, but Casey tore through the field to move from 104th position at the start of the day to within the top 15.

Fellow Englishman Rose bounced back from three early bogeys, and a nose bleed, to post a second successive 71 to lie at two over par and sharing the clubhouse lead with Australian Baddeley, who shot a 70.

After a disappointing opening 77, Casey admitted to just hoping to make the cut, but four birdies in his first eight holes produced a dramatic change in fortunes. Only one dropped shot marred his card, at the 18th, but he played some wonderful recovery golf on the front nine to put himself right back amongst the leaders.

"That round probably ranks as one of my finest ever, as long as I've been playing golf,” he said.

"A shame to have a blemish on the card with the bogey on the 18th but I consider the US Open to be the toughest test in golf and Oakmont could possibly be the toughest golf course I've ever played with the setup today.

"So I feel very fortunate to walk off the golf course with a 66. I don't want to build it up anymore than that, because, you know, the USGA might start putting pins in places we can't get to.

"I tried to be aggressive today but only in safe areas. I had been working a lot on my swing last week but was disappointed with the way I hit the ball yesterday.

"My aim was to make the cut and take it from there but now I have got myself right back in the tournament.”

Rose continues to impress with another controlled display one a course considered the toughest of all the US Open venues. Whereas in the first round he let a couple of shots slip late on in his round, second time out he finished strongly to post a 36 hole total of two over par 142. He even had to contend with a nose bleed on the second hole, brought on by hay fever.

“Yesterday I was a couple under for my round and finished at one over, which was a disappointing one over,” said Rose. “Today it was an incredibly satisfying one over. I was three over par early on and made two birdies and no bogeys in the last 13 holes so very pleased with that.”

With Nick Dougherty leading after the first round, the leaderboard is littered with Europeans in the early stages of the 107th US Open with a number of players in contention to be the first European winner of the title since Tony Jacklin in 1970.

Rose added, “European golf is incredibly strong right now and you only have to look at The Ryder Cup to realise that and to realise that there’s players in Europe who could and should be winning Majors.”

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