U.S. Open Day 2 Rundown: Morikawa soars to top of leaderboard

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Day 2 of the season's third major is complete. Here are U.S. Open takeaways after Friday's action, including thoughts on the early wave of players in Round 2.

Morikawa continues major excellence

It's safe to say that Collin Morikawa thrives as the conditions get tougher on a golf course. The 25-year-old's career major performance through his first three years as a pro has been nothing short of sensational, with two wins already on his resume.

YEAR Masters PGA Championship U.S. Open Open Championship
2019 DNP DNP T35 DNP
2020 T44 Win Cut DNP
2021 T18 T8 T4 Win

Morikawa finished fifth at this year's Masters before struggling to a 55th-place showing last month at Southern Hills. The World No. 7 made a startling revelation in the press center before the tournament began, admitting he had gone away from his trusty fade to hit a draw for the first time since his freshman year in college.

It certainly worked on Friday as the Cal alum fired the low round of the day with a 4-under 66 to sit atop the leaderboard at 5-under.

Judging by how he's putted through 36 holes, it won't really matter what shot shape Morikawa plays at The Country Club. He entered the week ranked 127th in strokes gained: putting on the season, but he sits 13th in the 156-man field for that category through 36 holes.

Rory's putter saves possible disaster

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After back-to-back pars to begin his day, Rory McIlroy's round went south real fast at No. 3. After a loose approach nestled in the thick rough just outside the greenside bunker, McIlroy couldn't move the ball further than four feet in two swings.

The four-time major champ was finally able to extricate his ball from the thick grass and find the green, but he was left staring at a 23-footer for his double-bogey.

When you factor in that only two men have won a major championship in the last 35 years when making a triple-bogey, the putt held massive importance for the 33-year-old.

In what seemed like a replay of his brilliant putting performance from Round 1, McIlroy rammed it home for an incredible 6 to drop just two shots. He would spend the rest of his round making up those strokes and eventually get into red numbers on the day with a birdie on the 17th.

McIlroy enters Saturday just one shot off the pace with the stage set for another epic weekend for the biggest name in golf.

Underdogs on the board

While The Country Club's history leans heavily on local amateur Francis Ouimet winning the 1913 U.S. Open, the event has been a big-name-only affair in recent memory - the last 11 U.S. Open champions have come from within the top 30 slots in the OWGR.

The leaderboard through two rounds is a remarkable mix of top-end talent looking to add another mark on their legacy and huge underdog stories that would resonate across all of sports.

Position Player Score OWGR
T1 Collin Morikawa -5 7th
T1 Joel Dahmen -5 130th
T3 Jon Rahm -4 2nd
T3 Rory McIlroy -4 3rd
T3 Hayden Buckley -4 259th
T3 Beau Hossler -4 162nd
T3 Aaron Wise -4 44th
T8 Scottie Scheffler -3 1st
T8 Nick Hardy -3 371st
T8 Patrick Rodgers -3 216th
T8 Matthew NeSmith -3 166th
T8 Brian Harman -3 49th

If you are into the big names, the world's top three players are all within two shots of the lead, with No. 7 Morikawa at the top. If you find long shots more interesting, there's 130th-ranked Joel Dahmen alongside Morikawa or World No. 259 Hayden Buckley just one back.

Rahm primed to keep trophy

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Approach play is essential to contending at the U.S. Open, but somehow Jon Rahm is in excellent position to defend his title despite struggling in that aspect of the game.

The Spaniard ranks 22nd on the season in strokes gained: approach but failed to crack the top 90 in that category through two rounds at The Country Club.

So how exactly is he sitting just one shot back of Morikawa's lead? By making up for it with elite performance in all other areas of play. Rahm ranks sixth in driving, 33rd in strokes gained: around the green, and sixth in strokes gained: putting.

Add that up, and it's good enough for a 4-under total through the opening two rounds. It's unlikely Rahm will continue to struggle with his approach game, so expect the 27-year-old to charge for a second straight U.S. Open title over the weekend.

World No. 1 charges

It didn't take Scottie Scheffler long to rebound from his missed cut at the PGA Championship, as the World No. 1 sits in a great spot after 36 holes as he makes a run at his second major of the season.

The Masters champion found himself six shots back of the first-round lead heading to his 17th and 18th holes Thursday. However, back-to-back birdies led to an even-par 70, which had him sitting comfortably within striking distance entering Friday.

The Texan turned it on heading down The Country Club's closing nine, going birdie, eagle, par, and birdie on Nos. 13-16 to go from four behind to tied for the lead in the span of 45 minutes.

Scheffler's final number of 3-under 67 was tied for the lowest of the morning wave and has him sitting two strokes back in Boston.

U.S. Open Brooks makes an appearance

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Brooks Koepka's performance at the last four U.S. Opens has arguably been as dominant as any stretch in golf history.

However, even with that record at the event, plenty of questions surrounded Koepka's form entering the week. The four-time major winner came to The Country Club with just two starts the past two months - a missed cut at the Masters and a 55th-place finish at the PGA Championship.

Koepka looked rusty in his opening-round 73, mixing birdies and bogeys across 18 holes, but he attacked the course Friday morning to charge up the leaderboard.

His biggest asset at The Country Club has been the lengthy par-5 14th, a hole measuring over 620 yards. Koepka showed off his brute power on both trips to the hole, walking away with eagle after two brilliant approaches.

Spurred on by that second eagle, Koepka matched the low round of the morning with a 67 and sits five back as he attempts to make another run at a third U.S. Open title.

Hovland rides dreaded bogey train

While he doesn't have a top-10 major finish in his young career, Viktor Hovland has never missed the cut in 10 starts at golf's biggest events. However, some poor play from the Norwegian on Friday saw that streak end in his 11th start.

After back-to-back birdies on his third and fourth holes brought him to 2-under, the World No. 8 fell apart over the final 11 holes. Hovland boarded a bogey train at his eighth hole, making six straight before finally stopping the bleeding with a par. That reprieve didn't last long, as he bogeyed three of his final four holes to shoot a 7-over 77.

Hovland has repeatedly admitted his chipping needs significant work, as evidenced by his last-place ranking this season on the PGA TOUR in strokes gained: around the green. That was once again an issue Friday, but the rest of his usually steady game let him down throughout the round.

Hovland lost strokes in every major category, including a whopping 1.78 on approach, which placed him 76th in the field for that stat. It's a massive drop-off for a player who entered the week seventh on TOUR in that category.

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U.S. Open Day 2 Rundown: Morikawa soars to top of leaderboard
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