For every Collin Morikawa with his back-to-back great wins, there’s a Joel Dahmen, who would have been pleased to even play in one four years ago.
The defending U.S. Open winner, Jon Rahm, sits one stroke behind the front. He’ll be playing at The Country Club this weekend alongside Hayden Buckley, who studied while playing at Missouri because he realized he’d need a job after graduation.
The top three players in the global ranking, as well as four of the top seven, are among the 12 players separated by two shots heading into the weekend: Masters champion Scottie Scheffler, Rahm, Rory McIlroy, and Morikawa.
“I think it’s great for the game of golf that the highest-ranked players and the best players are up there, especially in the tournament where truly the best player ends up winning,” Rahm said.
There are two PGA Tour rookies on the team, as well as two players who have never won on the tour.
Indeed, there is something for everyone at this year’s US Open. It just doesn’t have Phil Mickelson, who was eight shots short of making the cut.
Morikawa was looking for something different in his game and came up with a “baby draw” instead of his usual fade, which has been working out well for him at Brookline. With a 4-under 66 on Friday, he tied for the lead with Dahmen, the cancer survivor and popular everyman in golf.
With an eagle and a succession of massive par putts that felt just as crucial, Rahm did his best to keep up. Rahm scored a 67 and was one shot behind a group of five players. McIlroy, who had just won the Canadian Open, found his stride on the back nine, making three birdies in his final four holes for a 69.
Scheffler, the world’s No. 1 player, chipped in from thick rough short of the par-5 14th green for an eagle, bringing the Texan back into contention with a 67. He was two shots behind the leader.
Morikawa, Rahm, and Scheffler have won four of the last nine majors between them. Then there’s McIlroy, who has four major titles to his name but hasn’t won one since 2014.
“It’s the U.S. Open. No one has taken it deep so far and kind of run away,” According to Morikawa. “The last few days is a huge confidence booster for me heading into this weekend, and hopefully we can kind of make some separation somehow.”
The purpose of the US Open is to find the greatest players in the world. On the weekend, some of them will need some introductions to significant championship contention.
Start with Dahmen, who, even if he takes his game seriously, will never be accused of taking himself too seriously. Last week, he considered withdrawing from the 36-hole qualifier twice: before it began and after the first round.
But he persevered, and with a 68 on Friday, he will play in a major final group for the first time. At 5-under 135, he joined Morikawa.
“We don’t tee off until 3:45 tomorrow. I typically have to be home at 5 for dinner,” Dahmen said. “So this will be different, for sure.”
Buckley, who didn’t make the U.S. Open until hitting a 20-foot birdie putt in a playoff for the last position in his qualification 11 days ago, is in the group one stroke behind.
When he got back on track, he was fading, like so many others, with three bogeys in a five-hole span around the turn. He added another 68 thanks to birdies on the last two holes.
Aaron Wise, who has only one PGA Tour victory and has never finished higher than a tie for 17th in any of his nine majors, was also at 136, as was Beau Hossler, who played on the weekend at Olympic Club as a teen amateur in 2012 but hasn’t played in a major since.
They demonstrated that the U.S. Open’s accessibility extends beyond qualifying for the right to play golf’s most difficult test.
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