Friday, 19 March 2010

Angel Cabrera birdied the final hole to take the halfway lead in the 107th US Open as European Tour Members continue to fly the flag at Oakmont Country Club.

From Paul Casey’s simply breathtaking 66 in the morning, to Justin Rose’s two 71s, a score matched late in the day by Niclas Fasth, and the grandstand finish of Cabrera, there were some impressive performances from the strong European Tour contingent on day two of the US Open.

While Casey may have set the tone with a four under par 66 which defied the odds on the hardest of the US Open venues, the day belonged to the big-hitting Cabrera as the Argentine added a one over par 71 to his opening 69 to finish the day as the only player matching the course par of 140.

His birdie at the final hole not only gave him a one-stroke lead over American Bubba Watson, but also knocked 19 players out of the tournament who had hoped to qualify for the weekend under the ten stroke rule, including World Number Two Phil Mickelson and Luke Donald, who were among those on 11 over par.

Cabrera, winner of the BMW PGA Championship in 2005 and joint fifth in the same tournament at Wentworth Club three weeks ago, has often been described as the ultimate driving machine and he played his way round Oakmont with a combination of power and finesse.

“I have had two very good rounds,” said the 37 year old form Cordoba. “I have a very good chance and I’m playing well. So the tournament starts tomorrow and I have to play well over the weekend.”

Cabrera, with seven top tens in Majors, will go out in the last group with Watson, who carded a second round of 71 to lie at one over par, with four players grouped at two over par - Rose, Fasth, Aaron Baddeley and Stephen Ames.

Fasth, who finished runner-up to David Duval in the 2001 Open Championship, shot a second successive 71, comprising three birdies and four bogeys, and is well placed to mount a challenge over the weekend.

“This is one of the four Majors and to win one is a great career goal for me,” he said. “I know I can win if I have a shot down the stretch. I’ve done that a few times and didn’t back down at The Open in 2001 when I had a chance. Duval won that time and desrved to but I would like to be in there on Sunday and I am not going to back down if I am.”

Rose bounced back from three early bogeys, and a nose bleed, to post a second successive 71.  Rose continued to impress with another controlled display. Whereas in the first round he let a couple of shots slip late in his round, he made no such mistake in the second round as 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.”

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.”

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 three strokes off the lead.

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 seventh at the end.

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.”

Northern Ireland’s Graeme McDowell is also right in the mix after a two over par 72 left him at five over par, the same mark as overnight leader Nick Dougherty, who struggled to hole any putts in a 79 but is still very much in the hunt.

Dougherty will play the third round in the company of World Number One Tiger Woods, who is also on five over par after a battling 74.

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