Shane Lowry the lone Irishman left standing as Erin Hills bites back
US Open: Rory McIlroy, Paul Dunne and Graeme McDowell missed the cut on Friday
Paul Casey hits from the fifth tee during the second round of the US Open at Erin Hills. Photo: Charlie Riedel/AP
As clogged as the leader board was at this 117th US Open in the wide open fields of Erin Hills, with a four-way share of the midway lead that hadn’t manifested itself since 1974, there were also a number of big-hitters - among them the three top-ranked players in the world - who lost their way as if deprived of their golfing GPS systems.
We haven’t seen the likes of this before. Not since the official world rankings were introduced in 1986 have One-Two-Three in the list all failed to progress into the final two rounds of a US Open; and so, while Dustin Johnson, Rory McIlroy and Jason Day all exited the property, there was a gathering of players with title aspirations of their own.
In fact, of those players inside the top-10, not one of them has yet managed to claim a Major championship title. New ground, in more ways than one, is being broken in this first staging of a US Open in the state of Wisconsin.
Not since the so-called “Massacre of Winged Foot” of 1974 has there been such a logjam atop the leader board, but this latest edition of the old championship is more bunched that at any time with 32 players within five shots of the lead. In fact, the cut-line fell on plus-one - equalling the lowest ever cut in a US Open, at Medinah in 1990 - and anyone who has made it into the final two rounds will still believe anything is possible.
Only Shane Lowry (71 for 145) of the four Irish starters managed to survive the cut, right on the mark in his case. But Paul Dunne (73 for 148), Graeme McDowell (73 for 149) and McIlroy (71 for 149) all missed out.
Rickie Fowler, the first round leader, was eight shots worse off than his opening effort in tagging a 73 onto his first round 65 for 138, which left him a shot behind the quartet of leaders. A run of three bogeys in a row - from the 11th - derailed Fowler. “ I was cruising around how I wanted. Hit fairways, greens . . . but you don’t have to off by a whole lot, kind of a fine line,” he said of those dropped shots.
Instead, Fowler was leapfrogged by one after another, with Paul Casey - who brilliantly recovered from a triple bogey eight on the 14th, his fifth hole, to put together a sequence of five straight birdies from the 17th - the first to reach the clubhouse on the 137 mark. He was later joined by Koepka, Harman and Fleetwood.
Of the four, Fleetwood - who was ranked 188th in the world rankings as recently as last August, but currently up to 32nd - is the only one never to have won in the United States. “I’ve never done this before, never played in a US Open . . . anything can happen.”
Fleetwood, winner of the Abu Dhabi Championship on the European Tour earlier this season, changed things around last season when returning to his old coach and employing a friend as his caddie. “I think that can’t be underestimated, having your friend with you, whether you’re leading in the US Open or playing anywhere,” he said.