Rickie's Wild Ride to the Lead at the 123rd U.S. Open
17 Jun,2023

By Tim Liotta


Rickie's Wild Ride to the Lead at the 123rd U.S. Open

Another record for Rickie Fowler. 

After a record-setting, opening-round 62, Fowler tied the U.S. Open mark for the lowest 36-hole score by shooting an up-and-down, 2-under-par 68 on Friday to finish two rounds at 10-under-par 130  for a one-shot lead over Wyndham Clark at the 123rd U.S. Open Championship. 

Fowler's 130 total matches the mark set by Martin Kaymer in 2014 at Pinehurst. Xander Schauffele, who matched Fowler's opening 62 on Thursday, shot a second-round 70 and was tied for third with Rory McIlroy two shots back at 132. 

"It's not that easy out there," said Fowler. "I know visually from - yes, I've made a lot of birdies and that is doable out there. Until you've been on the grounds or been out there hitting shots, it's still a very hard test.

"Is it the hardest U.S. Open? No. I think it's a good, fair, hard test. Visually probably watching on TV and stuff it probably doesn't do it justice. The fairways look very wide because yes, the mowed areas are wide, but where you have to hit it is very small. So the golf course is big and open but plays very tight."

Clark posted his 9-under-par 131 score some five hours earlier Friday with a second-round 64 on a day where the course setup was more difficult than Thursday. 

Conditions changed even more so in the afternoon on Friday, as the sun came out and ocean breezes picked up. A stubborn marine layer all day Thursday and the early part of Friday created an arena where golfers could really attack. 

"Golf course-wise it started to firm up," said Fowler. "Greens started to firm up a little bit. Kind of the biggest difference, pins were on some more slope than yesterday, tucked a little bit more. Par-3s were back, and then the wind was blowing a bit more than what we had yesterday.

"Still a solid test. The birdies are out there if you put yourself in the right position, but as you can see, bogeys are very easy to make." 

Fowler made scoreboard watching a must at the Los Angeles Country Club, posting eight birdies, six bogies and four pars en route to his 2-under-par second round total. For the tournament, Fowler has birdied 18 of the 36 holes he has played. The 72-hole record for birdies at a U.S. Open is 22.

Teeing off on the 10th hole much earlier in the day, Clark made three birdies over his first seven holes, reaching 9-under with a birdie at the difficult 16th hole. He made one bogey and one birdie on his back nine. 

Clark won his first PGA Tour event last month, capturing the Wells Fargo Championship by four shots, and has climbed to No. 32 in the Official World Golf Rankings. This is the seventh major championship of his career, and his best previous finish was T75 in the 2021 PGA Championship at Kiawah Island Golf Resort. 

"It was definitely playing longer (on Friday)," said Clark. "I think there was maybe five or six tees that were put back, and then not only that, a lot of times when they had a back tee, they had a back pin.

So it was playing pretty long. I'd say it was definitely some of the tougher pins today."

McIlroy, a four-time major champion who has been seeking his fifth since 2014, started on the 10th hole on Friday, and was 2-over on the day when he made the turn. He shot a five-under 30 on the front nine, with birdies on four of his final five holes Friday to post a second-round 67 to go with his opening 65. 

"Obviously, at least for me, there's quite a scoring discrepancy from the front nine to the back nine," McIlroy said. "The front nine gives you some scoring opportunities and some wedges in your hand, a couple of par-5s, the 6th hole.

"The back nine is just a lot tougher. You've got a lot of -- those last three holes, 16, 17, 18, are playing tough even if it is pretty benign conditions out there.

"It feels like a sort of golf course where you try to make your score on the front and then try to hang on on the back.

Some big names began creeping up the leaderboard late in the day on Friday, as Scottie Scheffler, the world's No. 1 player, reached 5-under with a second-round 67, and Cameron Smith, the reigning Open Champion, at 4-under 136 with a 67 on Friday.  

Harris English was in fifth place at 7-under after posting a five-under-par 30 on his closing nine to shoot 66 on Friday to go with his 65 in the first round.  

Two-time major champion Dustin Johnson and Min Woo Kim of Australia were tied for sixth at 6-under par. Johnson overcame a quadruple-bogey 8 on the second hole with three birdies on his last seven holes for an even-par 70

Sam Bennett, who contended at the Masters in April as an amateur, was eighth at 5-under-par after posting a second-round 68 to go with his opening 67. Bennett played a steady second round with three birdies and a single bogey to go with 14 pars. 

Among those missing the 36-hole cut, which came at 2-over-par 142, were Phil Mickelson (+3), Jordan Spieth (+3), Patrick Cantlay (+3), Max Homa (+4), and Justin Thomas (+14).