US Open: Morikawa, McIlroy and Rahm lead the star rankings

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Many of golf’s biggest names compete in golf’s toughest tournament.

Collin Morikawa (-5), Rory McIlroy (-4) and Jon Rahm (-4) – with seven majors combined between them – lead the standings at the US Open, with qualifier Joel Dahmen (-5), after two tough but not impossible days at Brookline Country Club. Boston City was still recovering from Thursday night’s loss in the NBA Finals, but the course was welcoming, especially in the afternoon. Most of the top players won the favorable Thursday morning/Friday afternoon draw, with light winds and warm temperatures helping to keep the course playable.

Morikawa posted the club lead at -5 after two days that saw him incorporate a draw into his repertoire as well as a cup. The importance of a solid game at the 36-hole mark for Morikawa is obvious: if he wins this week, he will be three-quarters of the way to a career Grand Slam at 25, missing only the Masters for the quartet. McIlroy (Masters), Jordan Spieth (PGA Championship) and Phil Mickelson (US Open) are the only active players with just one major remaining in the career slam. Predictably, he didn’t want to get ahead of himself and go just yet.

“I can’t really speak to what it would be like to win this one,” he said. “I have to focus on [Saturday]. I have to stick to my game plan. I have to make sure I don’t run out of steam, which I sort of went through after nine holes. I just have to find a way to focus a little deeper and really prepare for the next 36.”

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Also at the top, because golf loves a good story: Dahmen, who was expected to qualify for this year’s Open. He’s only played in three US Opens in all, and before this week he hadn’t made a cut. A brilliant 60-foot birdie on the 15th hole gave Dahmen a share of the lead:

One shot behind Morikawa and Dahmen are Rahm, the defending champion, and McIlroy, looking for his first major in eight years. After a few treacherous moments, Rahm leveled off and closed with two birdies in the final five holes to launch into the weekend with momentum.

“We’re definitely on the right side of the wave this time,” Rahm said. “I don’t know what the score difference is, but it went from really bad, maybe rain and thunder, and we didn’t know what was going to happen, and extremely windy, to… perfect sunshine and the wind almost started to calm down a bit. Especially the last few holes. It was about as nice as a walk at the US Open can get, really.

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A player who did not appreciate the Country Club: McIlroy, who almost saw his entire tournament evaporate on a single hole. He dropped his approach on the par-4 third hole into the thick grass beside the green, then hit two shots before stepping out onto the green. He needed to drill a 22-foot putt for a double bogey, but it probably saved his tournament.

“You don’t want to try to do 30s for 6s,” McIlroy said, “but I did it in as few strokes as possible on that hole after what happened.”

This year’s reduction ended at +3, down from +5. Four amateurs made the cut; notable names who missed out include Shane Lowry, Tony Finau, Cam Smith, Viktor Hovland and LIV Golf players Sergio Garcia, Louis Oosthuizen and Phil Mickelson.

Blow of the day: Cameron Young’s ace in the sixth, a nice recovery after a quadruple bogey in the third. Smell of the day: Young’s next attempt that missed the high five:

The PGA Tour should seriously send players and caddies to a special school to teach them how to pull off the fiendishly difficult high-five.

Speaking of diabolical: The Country Club will likely play stronger this weekend, especially if the winds pick up as expected. The rough will be longer, the greens will be faster, and the pin locations will be more treacherous. So far the players have had the advantage, but the course should fight back over the weekend. The big names at the top right now may not be there on Saturday night, but if they’re as tight as they are now, the stage will be set for one of the best major Sundays in years.

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“It’s fun for all of us because we all want to compete against the best and beat the best, and obviously it’s a lot more fun to people watch,” Rahm said. “It’s great for the game of golf to have the top ranked players and the best players up there, especially in the tournament where really the best player ends up winning.”

“I definitely don’t want it to be easy,” McIlroy said. “I want the guys to come out and shoot 65, so I have to go shoot 64. It’s competition, and it’s at the heart of this game. I’m excited to be in that mix going into the weekend.”

BROOKLINE, MASSACHUSETTS – JUNE 17: Collin Morikawa of the United States walks off the fifth green during the second round of the 122nd U.S. Open Championship at The Country Club on June 17, 2022 in Brookline, Massachusetts. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

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Contact Jay Busbee at [email protected] or on Twitter at @jaybusbee.

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