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20 June 2017, 10:21 | Jan Cross
US Open Notebook:
You can still make birdies out there.
"It was a surprise as I really like this golf course".
Last year's U.S. Masters champion Danny Willett withdrew from the U.S. Open with a sore back on Friday as the Englishman's injury woes continued. "So you've got to minimize those mistakes, minimize those bogies".
The soft, forgiving conditions created opportunity for major movement up the leaderboard for those players willing to take it.
Four players - Paul Casey (71), Brian Harman (70), Tommy Fleetwood (70) and Brooks Koepka (70) - are tied for the lead at 7 under.
Among the early starters on another steamy day at Erin Hills in Hartford, Wisconsin, Casey survived a hair-raising round that included a gut-wrenching triple-bogey and a thrilling run of five straight birdies and ended with him signing for one-under 71. After three birdies on the back, he still finished +2 on the back after two bogeys and a triple.
"Not every day you enjoy a round of golf with an 8 on the card, but I'm a pretty happy man", Casey said. "It was a bit of a roller coaster".
Jamie Lovemark, Rickie Fowler and J.B. Holmes, meanwhile, are a shot further back from the leaders.
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Brandt Snedeker, Players Championship victor Kim Si-woo, Xander Schauffele and amateur Cameron Champ are also two shots back at five under.
"I'm proud of the way I hung in there today". The top 18 players on the leaderboard going into the weekend have combined for zero majors. "I think the more rounds I can play, I'm hopefully going to get rid of all that stuff and hopefully strip it down to what you saw the last six holes".
Lowry's front nine nearly saw the Esker Hills golfer play his way out of the tournament as he posted four bogeys with just the one shot gained. 1, 2 and 3 all missed the cut in a major.
Not bad for a guy who made the cut on the number.
The links-style layout, the longest course to stage a US Open, had the most sub-par scores in a first round at the championship, while the one-over-par cut matched the record low previously set in 1990 at Medinah.
Yet while Fowler and Casey thrived, defending champion Dustin Johnson, world number two Rory McIlroy and world number three Jason Day - three big-hitters who had been tipped to thrive - all had a day to forget.
It was the first time since the rankings system was launched in April 1989 that the world's top three players have all failed to make the third round of a major. There is more than a little work involved in this pro golf thing.
"I couldn't possibly shoot any higher than I did", Johnson said. "So it's pretty simple, I just didn't get it in the hole fast enough". I guess I've just kind of always been that way. "But I don't let it bother me". I was hacking around in the rough and did not feel it once. About all that save Erin Hills from another onslaught was a forecast for the strongest wind of the week. On the 12th tee, they told him he might be penalized and he played the final seven holes not knowing how big his lead was. If the storms stay away, Erin Hills could become a nasty beast. "When it is the US Open and you're leading it is a different type of pressure because it is new so I'll see how that goes tomorrow". He won't play again until The Open at Royal Birkdale next month. They're starting to narrow down and are getting firm.
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Koepka broke away from Matsuyama and the pack with three straight birdies on the back nine and closed with a 5-under 67. During a tournament on the Challenger Tour, he had come close to quitting, telling his manager he wanted to go home.
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Kerr still found time to crack a joke on the stage afterward: "Well, we had very little talent, actually, it was mostly coaching". The two playmakers were dynamic at times , but Cleveland's lack of depth ultimately sunk their attempt to repeat as champions.