Ludvig Aberg keeps cool in the heat at US Open as Rory McIlroy stays within striking distance

McIlroy sits just two shots off the lead, with Tom McKibbin and Shane Lowry also surviving into the weekend

Ludvig Aberg of Sweden holds the lead at the halfway point of the 124th US Open at Pinehurst Resort, Pinehurst, North Carolina. Photograph: Andrew Redington/Getty Images

Another Iceman cometh! Just as his compatriot Henrik Stenson once upon a time owned such a moniker, the unflappable demeanour of 24-year-old Swede Ludvig Åberg as he took one cool stride after another saw him navigate a route to solo ownership of the midway lead in the 124th US Open at Pinehurst No.2.

On a hot, draining day which saw weather advisories posted around the course for spectators to hydrate, while many took shade under the towering pine trees, Åberg composed a round of 69 to add to his opening 66 for a 36-holes total of 135 that gave him a one stroke lead over a trio of players.

Rory McIlroy’s 72 for 137 saw the Northern Irishman headed into the weekend in tied-fifth, just two shots adrift, while 21-year-old Tom McKibbin – another product of Holywood Golf Club – sank a 16 feet birdie putt on the 18th green to survive the cut on the mark, which fell on five-over-par 145.

McKibbin’s 71 for 145 matched the same score of Shane Lowry, who made it into the final two rounds after also backing up an opening 74 with a hard-fought 71 in which he struggled with his iron play but was thankful for a good putting performance on greens that ran to 13½ on the stimpmeter.


World number one Scottie Scheffler was another of those who survived on the cut mark, although not as spectacularly as former Open champion Francesco Molinari who aced the ninth, his final hole, to make it to the weekend.

Unfortunately for Séamus Power, a horrid bogey-bogey-bogey start to his round only signalled what would follow, as his 76 for 147 saw the Waterford man – who is in the field for next week’s Travelers, a signature event on the PGA Tour – miss the cut.

McIlroy didn’t have all parts of his game syncing in unison, but he battled and grinded his way to follow up his opening 65 with a 72 for 137 that ensured he remained very much in the business part of proceedings. Indeed, his mettle was demonstrated by a number of fine par saves, most notably when chipping in on the 17th and then again on the Par 5 fifth (his 14th) after hitting his approach into a wild, native area.

Rory McIlroy’s 72 for 137 saw the Northern Irishman headed into the weekend in tied-fifth, just two shots adrift. Photograph: Andrew Redington/Getty Images

“I’m still in a great position,” insisted McIlroy, looking for a fifth career Major but first since 2014.

For Åberg, this is unchartered territory. The Swedish phenom is only a professional for a year but has moved to number six in the official world rankings, has wins on both the PGA Tour and the DP World Tour and also featured on Europe’s winning Ryder Cup team in Rome last year.

In his first Major, the Masters in April, he finished runner-up to Scheffler. Now, he is headed into the weekend, in only his third Majors appearance, with the solo lead.

“I think a US Open is supposed to be hard. It’s supposed to be tricky, and it’s supposed to challenge any aspect of your game and I feel like it’s really doing that. But I’ve been super fortunate with the way that things have turned out over the last couple days, and hopefully we’ll be able to keep it up ... I think Augusta proved to me that I was able to be in that position, and it was more of a justification of like, yeah, you can actually be there and contend on a Sunday. Then obviously the golf course also played very difficult. It demanded a lot of patience and discipline just like this one does.

“I feel like those experiences that I had back in April, they were great. Hopefully we’ll draw some similarities between those. All we try to do is just hit the shots as good as we can and then see where that ends up.”

Leaders: -5 Aberg (69), -4 Cantlay (71), Detry (67), DeChambeau (69); -3 McIlroy (72), Finau (69), Pavon (70); -2 Matsuyama (66)

Philip Reid

Philip Reid

Philip Reid is Golf Correspondent of The Irish Times