SAN DIEGO — Funny that the year's second major should come to Torrey Pines, because playing the U.S. Open is like hang-gliding. When it all goes right it's a beautiful thing, and when it all goes wrong the carnage is quick and merciless.
Overnight co-leader Kevin Streelman became the latest casualty of the USGA's exacting course setups, making a triple-bogey 6 on the par-3 third hole to plummet off the leaderboard at the 108th U.S. Open on Friday. He made two double-bogeys as well in carding a 6-over-par 77 that left him at 3-over for the tournament. Other unheralded names were following suit Friday afternoon. Eric Axley triple-bogeyed his first hole, dropping off the leaderboard even faster than Streelman, and the other overnight co-leader Justin Hicks was 6-over through eight holes.
"I definitely threw away a shot or two to the field there," said Streelman, who made par on his first two holes before calamity struck on the third. He hit his tee shot into a greenside bunker, knocked his sand shot over the cliff behind the green, knocked his chip shot well past the pin and three-putted.
He birdied the seventh, ninth and 13th holes to minimize the damage and make the cut.
"I'm happy with the way I hung in there," he said. "I feel great. On Thursday morning if you'd have told me 3-over in a U.S. Open through two rounds, I would've taken it."
With the co-leaders going in the wrong direction, Davis Love III and D.J. Trahan made the biggest moves in the morning. Each player shot 2-under 69 to get to 1-under overall, good enough for the clubhouse lead as Phil Mickelson (even) and Tiger Woods (1-over) got ready to begin their second round.
That Trahan would play so well came as something of a surprise, given his mediocre record at the Buick Invitational, also played at Torrey Pines. Putting is usually his bugaboo, and this municipal course on the bluffs overlooking the Pacific is beloved more for its scenic views than its sometimes bumpy greens.
"I've never really looked forward to the Buick," Trahan said. "I've played it because I'm already on the West Coast. I took the attitude [this week] that this'll probably be my last time coming here, so I'd try to make the best of it."
Trahan took advantage of calmer conditions in the morning and an absence of wind in his first nine holes. He birdied the eighth and ninth holes to make the turn in 33, then played the back nine in even par. He missed a five-foot birdie putt on 18 to end his round.
Luke Donald (71-71), Geoff Ogilvy (69-73), Ernie Els (70-72) and Robert Allenby (70-72) were at even par.
Els, 38, won the Honda Classic earlier this year but has gone quiet since working with swing guru Butch Harmon. He won the U.S. Open in 1994 and '97, and despite some gripes about the greens late Thursday afternoon (after they had been trampled by most of the 156-man field) he likes his chances for a third title this weekend.
"This is a lot more playable than the last two or three [U.S. Open courses]," he said. "You can basically hit driver on every hole. There's enough room out there."
Even par will almost certainly be within striking distance of the 36-hole lead at the end of Friday, barring an unforeseen low round by Rocco Mediate (69) or Axley (69), neither of whom had played more than four holes by 2 p.m. local time.
With the greens getting bumpier and the wind likely picking up, such a low round seemed highly unlikely.
"This isn't a birdie contest," Trahan said. "It's a survival contest."