OAKMONT, Pa. — Last year, Geoff Ogilvy credited a newfound sense of calm for his U.S. Open victory at Winged Foot, but that reserve was not apparent Saturday after he chipped to within tap-in distance for par on the 609-yard, par-5 4th hole. Knowing that he'd just squandered one of the best opportunities on the course for a birdie — the 4th played to a 4.81 average Saturday; only the driveable 17th was as easy — Ogilvy threw the offending wedge overhand into his standing golf bag, which crashed to the ground.
Just another day in paradise at the 107th U.S. Open at Oakmont Country Club, where after opening rounds of 71-75, the defending champion stumbled to a 78, too far behind the leaders to have a chance Sunday.
"What's the slogan of the USGA? To protect the game? If golf were like this all the time, nobody would play it," said John Wood, the caddie for Hunter Mahan, who birdied the 288-yard, par-3 8th hole and shot 72. He is nine over for the tournament. (Actually the slogan is "For the Good of the Game," but point taken.)
Although he felt Saturday's course conditions were easier than Friday's, Ian Poulter was one of many who couldn't capitalize. "I played awesome today," he said, but he also made four bogeys and shot two-over 72. At 11-over for the tournament, Poulter said, "I will have to shoot a Johnny Miller (63) tomorrow."
Ernie Els, the defending champion of sorts because he won the U.S. Open here in 1994, went five over in a span of four holes midway through his round of 74 and was 13-over. He, too, will need a heroic closing round.
No wipeout was more gruesome than Bubba Watson's. Cruising along at even par on the day, one over for the tournament and in the pole position, Watson made a careless approach shot on the 477-yard, par-4 9th hole, short-siding himself in the thick grass left of the green. In a matter of seconds he'd fluffed his third; nearly airmailed the green with his fourth; chipped up and two-putted for an easy 7.
Rookie Anthony Kim was seven over through 36 holes, still in the hunt, but he shot 80 on Saturday and was out of it. He and playing partner Lee Westwood (79) made matching 7s on the par-4 10th hole.
Having made the cut on the number at 10-over par, Masters champion Zach Johnson needed a round of one or two under, and certainly no worse than par Saturday. Instead, he started with a bogey and a triple-bogey. He shot 76 and was mired at 16-over for the tournament.
"My game's been pretty good," Johnson said. "I'd say my biggest headache is just the course setup. It's just hard. I mean, the golf course is the story of the week, or the way the USGA sets it up, one of the two."