OAKMONT, Pa.—The game’s giants always rise to the occasion when the U.S. Open returns to Oakmont.
Welcome Gregory Bourdy, Andrew Landry, Scott Piercy, Dustin Johnson, Daniel Summerhays and, sure, let’s throw in Shane Lowry.
Yes, this is surely some kind of a prank. This U.S. Open been unpredictable all week ever since play stopped three times Thursday for assorted thunderstorms and tsunamis. So maybe these legendary players aren’t truly legendary yet. Or maybe they will be if they’re still on the leaderboard by the back nine on Sunday.
This Open has made no sense so far. For every good score Saturday, like Louis Oosthuizen’s 65 or Bourdy’s 67, which included a double bogey at the 18th hole, there goes Rory McIlroy (77-71), Justin Rose (72-76) and Rickie Fowler (76-75) missing the cut.
The strange part is, Oakmont is still soft around the edges while firming up in the hot summer. Saturday morning offered optimal scoring conditions.
Your not-quite-legends took advantage. Bourdy, 34, is a Frenchman with four European Tour victories but none since the 2013 Wales Open. He went on a scintillating run in warm, windless conditions and took a peak at Johnny Miller’s record 63 here. Bourdy was six under par after back-to-back birdies at 13 and 14 and had a chance to get to seven under and tie Miller’s timeless mark. But he bogeyed the par-3 16th and doubled the troublesome 18th.
“It was a beautiful golf and I knew at the beginning of this week, I could do something well,” Bourdy said. “I feel very good in my game the last few weeks, and I really love the difficulty of this course. I can play some great tee shots, good irons. And today, I holed some putts as well, so A-plus. At the end it was a very good day on a very difficult course.”
A par on the final hole would’ve tied Johnson, who played 36 holes Friday and was at four under. Bourdy settled for 67 and is two under. And no, he didn’t really think about the 63.
“The feeling is nice,” he said. “Of course, it’s one of the biggest tournaments in the world with the biggest field. So it’s good to be at the top, and I’ll do my best to be at the top on Sunday. Oakmont is an amazing, amazing place. I love everything here.”
Landry, 28, is a former All-American at Arkansas making his first major-championship start after several years as a regular on the mini-tours. He held the first-round Open lead after a 66 and appeared to vanish the way little-known first-round leaders are supposed to do when he went bogey, bogey, double bogey starting at the 6th hole. Landry didn’t disappear, however. Instead, he gamely fought back with a birdie at the par-3 13th and a birdie-birdie finish for 71.
“I hit some really good shots coming in,” he said. “This golf course suits me very well. I can play my game. I’m not the player who’s going to go out and shoot 28 under par, I’m the guy who kind of just dinks it around, makes pars and throws in a couple birdies.
“I’m just hanging out and keeping my mind off it and eating and drinking water. It’s definitely very pressured when you have guys like Dustin Johnson and Sergio Garcia on the leaderboard.”
Landry and the others caught Oakmont on a good scoring day. Maybe if the greens get firmer and scoring gets more difficult, the names on the leaderboard will change. Still, only 10 players were under par for the tournament.
“I told friends and family that maybe five to seven over par would win this golf tournament,” Landry said. “I did not think that the rain would make this course that soft. It’s definitely score-able now. Some holes, not all holes. If you get the ball on the fairway, you can really take advantage of some good opportunities.”
That didn’t help McIlroy, who’s heading home. Or Fowler. Jason Day, the No. 1 player in the world, who shot 69 to get to five over par while Jordan Spieth shot a second straight 72.
They’re not out of it, but they’re going to have to make up some serious ground in the third round, which starts Saturday afternoon and will likely spill into Sunday morning.
“I’m trying to claw my way back to even par,” Day said. “I think if I can get back to even par that I have a good chance at giving myself a shot at winning. But obviously, there’s plenty of golf to be played. Dustin Johnson is playing some pretty good golf right now. He’s going to be tough to beat.”
Oosthuizen, the South African who won a British Open at St. Andrews, shot the round of the day, 65, tying Summerhays’ round Friday afternoon. Oosthuizen closed with a back-nine 29 in last year’s Open final round at Chambers Bay to finish tied for second. He beat his opening round 75 here by ten strokes with this 65, thanks to eight birdies.
“What I learned from last year was to never really give up in a U.S. Open,” he said. “Just grind on. If something happens, then you can get yourself right back into it. I was just grinding the whole day.”
Strange things have been happening at Oakmont. They may continue to happen. Like a Frenchman winning the Open?
“It’s possible,” Bourdy said with a smile. “Of course, it’s possible. I know it’s possible so that’s the main thing. We’ll see.”