ARDMORE, Pa. Phil Mickelson made his first birdie on his last putt. Billy Horschel never missed a green. It was all they could do to barely break par against Merion, which is turning out to be the real star of this U.S. Open.
Nearly half the field did not finish the second round when it was suspended by darkness. Moments after the horn sounded to stop play, Mickelson opted to finish his round and drilled a 20-foot birdie putt for a 2-over 72. That gave him a share of the clubhouse lead with Horschel, who made it as easy as possible by hitting every green in regulation for a 67.
They were at 1-under 139.
Even with the round not finished, it was becoming clear that this U.S. Open might be up for grabs until the very end. Tiger Woods, who grimaced with every shot out of the rough because of pain in his left elbow, was at 3-over 143 and still very much in the game.
I dont know how anyone is going to separate too far from the field, Mickelson said. There might be a hot round tomorrow, and they might get a hot round on Sunday, but unlikely to be the same player.
No one was hotter than Horschel, playing in his first U.S. Open since he was a 19-year-old in college.
Nothing is tougher than Merion, the little course in the tony suburbs of Philadelphia that even in rain-softened conditions is showing plenty of might. And to think there was chatter at the start of the week about the potential for the first 62 in major championship history.
Perhaps next time you guys will believe when we say its really not that easy that its really not that easy, Geoff Ogilvy said after a 70. That put him at 4-over 144, which gave him and dozens of others a legitimate shot going into the weekend.
Luke Donald (72), Justin Rose (69) and Steve Stricker (69) were at even-par 140.
The surprise was a pair of amateurs Michael Kim of Cal and Cheng-Tsung Pan of Taiwan. They were 2 under for their round and among those who didnt finish.
The long day, brought on by storm delays on Thursday, began with cool conditions and patches of light rain that eventually gave way to sunshine. That led players to wonder how much tougher Merion will be once it starts to dry out.
Its not as easy as people think, defending champion Webb Simpson said after a 75 put him six shots behind the clubhouse lead. I heard 15, 16 under floating around. And its going to be a normal U.S. Open winning score, I think.
Horschel hit all 18 greens in regulation, a stellar achievement at a regular tour event, let alone the U.S. Open. It sent USGA officials searching for hours to find the last time anyone failed to miss a green in the toughest test in golf. Records of that detail only go back as far as 1989. That last documentation of someone doing that was Johnny Miller when he closed with a 63 at Oakmont to win in 1973.
David Graham used his putter on every hole three from the fringe when he shot 67 to win the 1981 U.S. Open at Merion.
I didnt know I hit every green until I walked off 18, Horschel said. Its a cool thing. But like I said, its not the first time Ive hit all 18 greens. Ive done it plenty of times in my career. Obviously, its at a U.S. Open, but I think the softness of the greens helped that.
Donald remains in hunt after rough round: Luke Donald holed out a chip for birdie on the short par-3 13th to reach 4 under and top the leader board in the U.S. Open.
Not for long.
He bogeyed Nos. 4-7 to totally spoil his round. Donald was at 4 under Thursday before play was suspended, and finished with a 2-under 68 on Friday. He added a 72 in the second round to leave him even par for the tournament.
The English star had a run of five bogeys in six holes on his back nine in the second round.
The greens have been tricky to read all week, he said. They seem to be breaking a little bit more than Im seeing, hence a couple of lip outs. But you try not to panic in U.S. Opens.
Donald, playing in his 10th U.S., has never won a major.
Double dip: Carl Pettersson saw double on No. 5.
Pettersson had to check his backswing after an errant shot from No. 2 rolled his way and smacked his ball off its spot. Pettersson stopped his swing and backed off the ball, chuckling at the truly bizarre shot.
The wayward ball came from Brandon Crick. He had to hit from where the ball landed.
Pettersson placed the ball at its original spot. He probably wished his ball was whacked into the cup he had a bogey on the par-5 hole.
Luckily, I wasnt in my downswing, because if I would have missed the ball, it would have been, I dont know what the ruling would have been on that, he said. But it might not have been good. I regripped and hit a decent shot after that.
Lawrie honor: Paul Lawrie fought back with a 71 and feared he would miss the cut. The day wasnt a total loss. Hours later, the former British Open champion was among those selected for the Order of the British Empire in the Queens Birthday Honors.
More that his performance on the course, the Scot was recognized for his foundation that helps pay for kids to get into sport. It started with golf and now includes soccer, rugby and some tennis.
Lawrie holds the major championship record for the largest comeback in the final round, making up 10 shots in the final round at Carnoustie in 1999, and beating Jean Van de Velde and Justin Leonard in a playoff.
Local favorite: Jim Furyk had the home crowd on his side.
He just failed to deliver a performance worth cheering for Friday.
Furyk, born in the nearby Philly suburb of West Chester and raised in Lancaster, shot a 9-over 79. Furyk, the 2003 U.S. Open champion, wont be adding a second one to the collection. He hadnt played Merion Golf Club since the 1989 U.S. Amateur.
It showed, he said. I didnt do a great job with my prep. I felt like I was ready coming here but I obviously played very poorly. It was probably my last putting performance in the last three or four years.
For years, Furyk hosted the one-day Exelon Invitational at various stops throughout the state. His event was the only professional golf even that the Philadelphia area had on a yearly basis.
He hasnt held the informal exhibition since 2009 and doesnt expect it to return. And he doesnt know when hell play again in the area.
I never really played well at the tournaments here, he said. Its a bummer. I crossed the state at Oakmont for a couple of championships. At 43, theres not going to be another tournament here at Merion.
Oover and Oost: Louis Oosthuizen withdrew with a hip injury.
The 2010 British Open champion strained a hip flexor while shooting a 5-over 75 in the first round and pulled out before his second round tee time.
Oosthuizen said the problem affected his swing to the point that he was advised he risked further damage if he kept playing.
The South Africans best finish at the U.S. Open came in 2011, when he tied for ninth.
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