Morikawa, Damen lead the US Open, Hadwin from Canada three back

BROOKLINE, Massachusetts – For every Colin Morikawa and his successive years, winning a major is Joel Damen, who just four years ago would have been excited to even play in one.

John Ram is the defending champion of the US Open with one shot from the lead. He will play at The Country Club over the weekend with Hayden Buckley, who is studying while playing in Missouri, because he thought he would have to find a job after college.

The dozen players separated by two shots entering the weekend include the top three in the world rankings and four of the top seven – Masters champion Scotty Scheffler, Ram, Rory McIlroy and Morikawa.

“I think it’s great for the game of golf that the top players and the best players are there, especially in a tournament where the really best player ends up winning,” Ram said.

It also includes two rookies on the PGA Tour and two players who have never won a tour.

Indeed, this US Open has something for everyone. It’s just not Phil Mickelson, who missed with eight shots.

Morikawa was looking for something in his game and found “baby play” instead of his traditional fading, and it works great in Brooklyn. He equaled the low score on Friday’s championship with a 4-under 66 share of Damen, a cancer survivor and popular with everyone in golf.

Rahm did his best to keep up with the eagle and a series of big steam shots that felt just as valuable. Ram was 67 and was in the group of five players with one shot back. This included McIlroy, who won the Canadian Open, which has never been more fun.

McIlroy was two holes in his lap when a delusional approach landed on a waist-high waistcoat. He took the hack. And then another. The third attempt finally found the green and he made a 25-foot hole to save double the waves.

McIlroy hit his step on the back nine with three birds in his last four holes for 69.

“After 36 holes in a big league, that’s all you want to do is put yourself right in the mix over the weekend,” McIlroy said. “For a short part of the day there, it seemed that I would be a few more behind. But I dug deep and played the last eight holes really, very well. “

Not to be overlooked, Scheffler, the number. 1 player in the world who joined from a rough rough piece of par-5 14th Eagle Green, which brought the Texan back into the mix with 67. He fell behind by two strokes.

Morikawa, Ram and Scheffler have combined to win four of the last nine major tournaments. And then there’s McIlroy, who has four majors on his own, but none since 2014.

“It’s the US Open. No one has taken it deep so far and somehow escaped, “Morikawa said. “The last few days have been a huge boost for my self-esteem as I leave for this weekend, and I hope we can make a breakup somehow.”

The idea of ​​the US Open is to identify the best players. Some of them require some introductions to the big championship over the weekend.

Start with Damen, who will never be accused of taking himself too seriously, even if he takes his game seriously. Last week, he considered retiring from the qualifiers with 36 holes twice before and after the first round.

But he endured and with 68 on Friday played in the major’s final group for the first time. He joined Morikawa at the age of 5 or 135.

“We don’t start until 3:45 tomorrow. “Usually I have to be home at 5 for dinner,” Damen said. “So it’s going to be different, for sure.”

The group with one shot left includes Buckley, who was not at the US Open until he made a 20-foot bird strike in the playoffs for last place in his qualifiers 11 days ago.

He was fading, like many others, with three waves during a five-hole turn around the bend when he returned to the track. The birds of the last two holes gave him another 68.

Also at 136 were Aaron Wise, with one win in the PGA Tour and nothing better than a draw for 17th place in his nine previous major tournaments; and Beau Hossler, who played at the Olympic Club over the weekend as an amateur teenager in 2012 but has not been heard of in the big ones since.

They were examples that the US Open, which is open to all, does not stop with the ranking for the right to play the most difficult test in golf.

Adam Hadwin of Abbotsford, British Columbia, the leader after the first round, shot 2 over 72 on Friday and now has 2 less for the tournament. He made birds on his last two holes.

Mackenzie Hughes of Dundas, Ont., Was the only other Canadian to make the incision. He is 1 over for the tournament.

Mickelson will not be here this weekend, it is hardly a surprise. He took a four-month break due to his provocative remarks about the PGA Tour and the Saudi-backed league he promoted, joined LIV Golf and returned to the race last week with poor results.

The US Open was a bit more tough and Mickelson was exposed, especially the Greens, with rounds of 78-73 to miss the cut. His next stop is Oregon in two weeks for another LIV Golf event, 54 holes and no cuts.

McIlroy never panicked after his double silence. He took advantage of the chances of a birdie on the heel to control par-4 and the short eighth par-5. And he finished strong to get right into the mix, his main goal being over the weekend.

In addition to waiting for McIlroy, I saw so many familiar names at the top.

“You want to face the best to try to get the best out of yourself,” McIlroy said. “And to see Colin and John, and Scotty, and Sam (Burns) up there and whoever else, it’s golf in the big championship. This is exactly the competition.

“And that’s at the heart of this game. I’m excited to be in this mix this weekend. “

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