ARDMORE, Pa. -- It has been 43 years since an Englishman won the U.S. Open, and Luke Donald managed to put himself in prime position to match the feat of countryman Tony Jacklin, who prevailed in 1970 at Hazeltine in Chaska, Minn.
Despite a second-round 72 that included a retched run of four consecutive bogeys and five in a six-hole stretch, Donald was at even-par 140 halfway through the tournament and only a shot off the lead of 1-under 139 posted by Americans Billy Horschel and Phil Mickelson.
“U.S. Opens get harder as the week goes on,” said Donald, a former No. 1 ranked golfer who has yet to win a major title. “The pins [Friday] were a lot more tucked. They were tougher to get to. A few were on little hills or slopes. It’s very difficult to make those putts when the ball is breaking so much. But you try not to panic in U.S. Opens. You try to take each hole as it comes.”
Donald is among the shorter hitters on the PGA Tour, ranked 155th in driving distance this season. But with Merion playing just less than 7,000 yards, he has said he is not at that much of a disadvantage on an Open venue for a change. That’s because he has one of the finest short games in the world, a major asset this week.
“I’m excited to be in contention and have a chance,” he said. “I haven’t played very well, but when I saw this place last week, I thought it was a good fit for my game. It’s nice to come here and feel like I’m swinging pretty well and I’ve got a chance. Hopefully, I can throw a good one in [Saturday] and really be in the mix come Sunday.”
Furyk misses cut
Jim Furyk, a Pennsylvania native who grew up playing junior golf in the Philadelphia area, may have been among the most disappointed men in the field Friday after posting a 79 and two-day total of 16-over 156 to miss the cut. Furyk, the 2003 Open champion at Olympia Fields in the Chicago suburbs, tied for fourth last year at in the Open at Olympic in San Francisco and has had six top-10 finishes in the tournament.
“I’ve had four events in the Philly area, and I’ve never played well in any of them,” he said. “And then to come back here is a bummer. At 43, later in my career, there’s not going to be another tournament here at Merion, at least not until maybe the Champions Tour. I wanted to play well, but sometimes you press, you try a little too hard and there were a lot of things that went astray in my game. ... I’m not sure I’ve ever thrown up two worse scores [in an Open].”
After Round 1
Phil Mickelson was the official first-round leader with his opening 67, a shot ahead of Donald and Australian Mathew Goggin at 68. Mickelson completed his first round Thursday. Donald and Goggin had to come back at 7:15 a.m. Friday to finish up.
Those three players and Belgium’s Nicolas Colsaerts (69), who also completed 18 Thursday, were the only four players under par going into the second round.
Donald had pushed to 4-under after 13 holes before play was halted by darkness on Thursday night. He came back and bogeyed the 16th and 18th holes, missing a four-foot par putt at No. 18 to fall a shot behind Mickelson.
Tiger Woods had a birdie and two bogeys on his last seven holes and finished the opening 18 with a 3-over 73. After his round, he said the left elbow that bothered him on several shots out of the rough on Thursday was not a problem, and he was far more concerned about his putting.
“Overall, it was not too bad a [first] round,” he said before starting his second round in the morning. “I missed a boat-load of putts. The round certainly could have been under par.”
Masters champion Adam Scott, playing with Woods, was at 3-under after play was called off Thursday, but the No. 3 player in the world had a disastrous Friday finish to his first round. He made three bogeys and a double and was in at 72. No. 2 Rory McIlroy, also in that group, ended with an opening 73.
Bad luck for Lee
Lee Westwood was not at all happy about his approach shot at the 12th hole as he was finishing off his first round. Tied for the lead at 3-under at that point, his ball hit the Merion signature wicker basket at the top of the flagstick and caromed back off the green about 30 yards. Westwood went on to make double-bogey 6 at the hole and clearly was perturbed.
“Well, I did hit it,” he said afterward. “But Peter Dawson [the head of the Royal and Ancient and a walking rules official with Westwood’s group] has assured me that for the [British] Open championship, we’ll be going back to flags like a normal tournament.”
Things got worse for Westwood as the day wore on. After posting a 70 in the first round, he soared to a 77 in the second and will now be hard-pressed to contend for his first major title. By the way, if the ball had embedded in the wicker atop the stick, Westwood would have been allowed a free drop on the lip of the cup.