In the second round, surprising though it may have seemed, it was more of the same for Pebble Beach. A total of 44 players broke par, the third most in a second round in U.S. Open history. But the real stir came from a different source.
In a U.S. Open field loaded with marquee names and groaning with credentials, Gary Woodland seemed rather alone. He had won three times on the PGA Tour, which he first joined in 2009, won no majors, and in his first 27 appearances, his best finishes were ties for 12th in the 2011 PGA Championship and the 2016 Open Championship. “It’s not something you’re proud of,” Woodland offered, almost parenthetically.
But in the 2019 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach, on a cool, overcast day, he certified that he was in the running, which he did at his final hole by muscling a tough approach from a dangerous lie to the front of the green, then holing a 50-foot putt for a birdie.
It was at the par-four No. 9 (he’d started at the 10th). The birdie was just a bonus, he said. “Hit a beautiful drive,” he said. “I was in the divot [hole] … We tried to take a little less club and hit it hard and play out safe to the right [he’d hit a seven iron from 217 yards], and it was nice to knock it in.” It was for a birdie and a 65, tying the Pebble Beach Open record again, and a nine-under 133 for a two-shot lead over Justin Rose.
aid Woodland, who had made only one bogey in the first two rounds, “My ball striking was beautiful.” He started by saving par from eight feet at the 10th, birdied 12 and 16, then coming home added Nos. 1, 5 and 6 before his closing heroics.
Rose, after that opening 65, wrestled his way to a three-birdie 70 and a seven-under 135. But at one point, he had a four-stroke lead. It leaked away on an errant wedge that cost him a bogey at his 10th (No. 1), and a stray approach that ended in a penalty drop from an ice plant at his 13th (No. 4). Rose was at peace with himself. It was too early to fret. “At this point, there’s not a lot to worry about,” he said. “If you’re one ahead, one behind, it’s a lot of golf to be played. But it’s the perfect spot after two days.”
Among other challengers, perhaps none spun a more energetic round than South Africa’s Louis Oosthuizen. Oosthuizen had the ride of his life, bumping around Pebble in seven birdies, six bogeys and five pars. The most stable part of his round were the three straight pars from No. 2. Otherwise, he had back-to-back birdies twice, bogeys once. He didn’t make a par on the back nine till the 18th. But it added up to a one-under 70 and a 136, one off the lead. “I’m not a big fan of bogeys,” he said. “But miss these greens … you can’t control the ball.”
Tiger Woods made one birdie. He holed a 10-foot putt at No. 11, his second hole, then ground out pars all the way to his last two holes, which he bogeyed for a one-over 72, finishing nine strokes out of the lead. “Yeah, I’m a little hot right now,” he said. “So need a little time to cool down a
The problem, he said, was leaving the ball above the hole instead of below for the more makeable putts. “Yeah, right now I’m still in the ball game,” he said. “There’s so many guys with a chance to win. We’ve got a long way to go.”
Rory McIlroy came back from the edge, shot 69, and was four behind. He’d made three birdies through the 11th. Then: “I was feeling good about myself … and felt like I could squeeze a couple more out of the round,” he said. Then he bogeyed the 13th out of bunker and rolled a wedge shot off the green at the par-five 14th and double-bogeyed. He pulled himself together and birdied 15 and 16. “Those were huge to get me back into the tournament,” he said.
Brooks Koepka came out of his second 69 bubbling. After a birdie-bogey first nine (he started at the 10th), he birdied Nos. 6 and 7 to get within five of Woodland. “I feel great,” Koepka said. “I’m excited — I’ve got a chance,” he said. “That’s all you can ask for. Sometimes the hole just needs to open up. If I can get off to a good start tomorrow, have that feeling where the hole’s opening up, it could be a fun round.”
Woodland was also bubbling, though in his own less effusive way. He’d had 10 one-putt greens and needed just 27 putts overall. Always a power hitter, he’d been working hard at his short game.
Someone noted that in his first 27 majors, he didn’t have a top-10 finish, but he’d had two in his last four and now was leading the U.S. Open after 36 holes.
“Well, short game has come around,” he said. “I’ve always been a pretty good ball-striker, I’ve relied on my ball-striking … Short game and putting has been the big deal for me … Believing in yourself. Knowing that my stroke is good. I can rely on other things and it’s been working.”
Second-round leaders: Gary Woodland 65–133, Justin Rose 70–135, Louis Oosthuizen 70–136, Aaron Wise 71–137, Rory McIlroy 69–137.