Saturday, September 22, 2018

Dustin Johnson tops leaderboard at weather-delayed U.S. Open (w/ video)

OAKMONT, Pa. — One year after Dustin Johnson let the U.S. Open slip away from him, he drove his way to the top of the leaderboard Friday.

Immaculate from tee to green, Johnson endured a day of 36 holes with a game that made him look tough to beat. He didn't make a bogey in his opening round of 3-under 67 at Oakmont, and he dropped only one shot in his second-round 69 that ended just as the siren sounded to stop play because of darkness.

Johnson was 4-under 136, two shots ahead of anyone else who completed the second round in the weather-delayed U.S. Open. He became the second player in an Open at Oakmont to begin with consecutive rounds in the 60s, joining Hale Irwin in 1994.

As much as his long ball, a short memory is one of Johnson's greatest assets. Winless in majors, he has squandered good chances in four of them. None might be more crushing than last year's U.S. Open, when he was a 12-foot eagle putt away from winning but three-putted to finish one behind Jordan Spieth.

Asked if he was motivated by last year, Johnson deadpanned, "What happened last year?"

Andrew Landry had a much shorter day.

The 28-year-old qualifier had to hit only one shot when he returned in the morning, making a 10-foot birdie putt for 66 and the first-round lead. It was the best Round 1 in 10 majors at Oakmont, beating a record shared by Ben Hogan and Tom Watson. Landry also became the first player in 30 years to have the sole lead after his first U.S. Open round.

Three storm delays Thursday before play was called left a disjointed schedule and no clear picture of who's in control. The nine players who completed the first round Thursday had the day off Friday. Those who had to return to finish the round initially were given Round 2 tee times deep into the evening until the USGA decided it best that everyone from that half of the field — including Spieth at 2 over — start Round 2 this morning.

Johnson went 27 holes without a bogey in a U.S. Open held on its toughest course.

The streak ended when he found a deep bunker left of the first fairway, advanced only 40 yards and narrowly missed a 20-foot par putt. He missed plenty of other birdie chances along the way, which isn't alarming because Oakmont's greens are difficult to putt. Far more impressive was his accuracy.

Johnson missed only three fairways in the second round, and he missed only five greens through two rounds. "It was a long day, but I felt like I played really solid all day for all 36 holes," Johnson said. "I drove it really well."

Sergio Garcia, who also knows his share of heartache in majors, stayed with Johnson as best he could. The Spaniard finished his second round with a 50-foot par save for 70. He was 2 under with Scott Piercy, who also went 68-70.

"I'm too old for this," said Garcia, 36.

Meanwhile, the "Big Three" might be in big trouble.

Spieth wrapped up his water-logged first round in the morning, carding 2-over 72 that included five bogeys and a handful of exasperated looks after watching putt after putt burn the edge. After one approach shot, he held out his hands, turned and, sighing, said "Oh my God" while flipping his club in frustration.

Rory McIlroy matched his worst score in a U.S. Open with a first-round 77. Top-ranked Jason Day opened with 76 and was 5 over with three holes left in his second round.

Phil Mickelson, who turned 46 Thursday, was in danger of missing the cut for the second straight time at Oakmont. After shooting 1-under 34 on his opening nine holes, Mickelson played the next 25 in 8 over. He was 7 over with two holes left in his second round.

The Golf Channel contributed to this report.

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