PITTSFORD, N.Y. — Justin Rose, the golfer you all remember, may not have given much thought to his recent days in major tournaments, but he hit two fairways all day. He was hitting birdies as much as he hit bogeys.
And when he came off the course on Friday, he was 1-under in the tournament, putting him in contention for the PGA Championship this weekend. He said he thought he could win the tournament at Oak Hill Country Club, where finding fairways would be very difficult, at 4-under.
“There’s a chance,” said Rose, the 2013 US Open winner who just ended a four-year streak on the PGA Tour in February. “Driving the ball in play there are some fun pins. Three or four in the round he gets a birdie and then has to overcome the difficult holes and tough breaks that follow.”
The second round at Oak Hill was similar, with little tendency to compromise on Thursday, but Friday continued to be terrifying. By nightfall, only nine players on the 156-player field were below par. The 2008 PGA Championship was the last time there were less than 10 players below average after two rounds.
Corey Connors, Victor Hovland and Scotty Schaeffler shared the lead at 5-under, with Bryson DeChambeau and Justin Hsu tied for fourth, two strokes behind.
No major champion has ever finished in the top three at the end of the first two rounds on a par-70 course.
“I’m happy to be back to take a chance, but at the same time, we still have a lot of golf left,” Hovland said. “We are only halfway there and a lot can happen.”
Tie in the top 70, the spot included rising stars Tom Kim and Lim Sung-jae, as well as reigning US Open champion Matt Fitzpatrick. Jordan Spieth, who needs a PGA Championship win to complete a lifetime Grand Slam, and last year’s tournament winner Justin Thomas, are joined by Phil Mickelson and this year’s American Ryder Cup captain Zach Johnson. He also participated in 5 overs. team.
Through the first two rounds outside Rochester, Rose was in no danger of joining them. But it’s been a tumultuous decade since winning the British Open at Merion. His two runner-up finishes were his at the Augusta National Golf Club, but none of his jackets on the green, worn by Masters Tournament champions. He finished the 2018 British Open at Carnoustie two strokes behind Francesco Molinari, who missed out this week. He had several top 10 finishes in the PGA Championship, finished third at the US Open, and suffered a long winless streak on the Tour.
Confidence was renewed when he finally grabbed the win at Pebble Beach, where he finished third at the Open Championship in February.
“The only thing that matters is the fact that you know you can do it again,” said Rose, who is aiming to become the first British player to win the PGA Championship in 104 years.
So far at Oak Hill, he feels comfortable with his iron play and reassuring in his putting, but his game still needs to tighten up a bit. Hard-won realism probably didn’t hurt either.
“When I took a bad lie in the rough, I would do drugs and pitch out and try to avoid big numbers,” he said. “I felt that it wouldn’t be a big deal to hit one or two bogeys around here.”
Perhaps he was right. On Friday, even the highest point of the leaderboard was dotted with green bogey signal squares. Dustin Johnson hit 67 in the opening round, but faltered to a 74 on Friday. Less than a week after winning the LIV golf tournament in Oklahoma, Johnson was frustrated by hitting four bogeys and one double bogey. he just got two birdies and it was easy.
Lee Min Woo, meanwhile, used an exceptional day of putting to reach even par on Friday’s front nine with five birdies. Brooks Koepka played par in the first half of Friday’s round before making five birdies on the back nine to move to 2-under, four shots off Thursday. Patrick Cantray, who is the world’s best (4th) who has never won a major tournament in his career, extended 3 strokes to 1 over.
“If you hit great shots all day, you can have good rounds, and if you’re a little off all day, you can have rounds like yesterday where you hit four overs,” Cantlay said Friday. . “It’s just a narrow line. Better stay on the right.”
Michael Bullock, head pro at Arroyo Trabuco Golf Club in southeast Los Angeles, was just above Cantray on the leaderboard, at even par, more than enough to qualify for his first PGA Championship.
“People there understand. They hit the ball on the right side of the bush and they don’t know what’s going on. But luckily for me, where did I go wrong? “I always heard that club pros figured it out within a few shots. Tour pros figured it out within one shot,” said Bullock, who is making his fifth PGA Championship appearance. But luckily this time I was able to figure it out within a stroke.”
Oak Hill’s fairways are narrow, with the 18th fairway narrow at just 20 yards, making it even more difficult for Official World Golf Ranking No. 3 Rory McIlroy to hold out with stronger winds on Friday than Thursday. Only two planes landed. On Friday, shots that looked promising off the tee shots often ended up in the rough, almost inevitably described as penalties.
“I tried several consecutive drives on the 16th and 17th holes, but when I thought I couldn’t do it in the middle, I landed in the perfect position, but the fairway was so hard that I just rolled over in the rough,” he said. Sepp said. Straca scored 71 points on Friday to qualify for the tournament. “At the moment there isn’t much to stop the ball other than in the rough. Once you get into the rough it’s really hard to score.”
Weather conditions are expected to worsen on Saturday, with rain and wind likely to affect the track.
“I think this will compromise comfort levels again,” says Rose. “This is going to be four days like making the most of each day.”