It’s one of the more fun days of the year in professional golf: moving day at the U.S. Open.
Later this afternoon, Rory McIlroy, Brooks Koepka, Justin Rose, and the rest of a relatively stacked leaderboard will all take to a chilly, cold Pebble Beach to chase leader Gary Woodland on the Monterey Peninsula. At 9-under par, the Kansas native Woodland will have some room to put distance between he and the field if he takes it deep, but things are toughening up just enough that a couple of early bogeys could open things right back up for forty-plus players within a handful of shots of the lead.
Maybe the biggest story of the day? Tiger and Phil aren’t out of things, either — but they’ll need to make hay today if they want to be in the conversation on Sunday. If the leaders don’t run away, a 4 or 5 under round from either could get them back into the conversation. One thing to watch: Today might be the last shot for Phil to complete the career grand slam. Joel Beall of Golfworld did a great analysis of some numbers on Phil’s strengths and winners over time — Pebble was Phil’s last shot realistically to win a US Open. 50-year-old Phil Mickelson likely can’t compete in a big ballpark like Winged Foot next year, and he’s already stopped playing his hometown event at Torrey because it doesn’t suit his strengths in older age. Enjoy Phil today. It could be the last, real meaningful round we get from him at the national championship.
Pebble isn’t playing near as difficult as it has in previous opens, almost three shots easier thus far than the famed 2000 edition of this championship where Tiger won by 15 shots and was the only player to break par. That might start to change a bit today. No one on the course is exactly taking it low at the moment, and we’re expecting the sun to peek out and winds to pick up as we get into the afternoon. That could create the type of drying out & baking around the greens that might make this a far tougher weekend test. Paul Azinger mentioned on the broadcast a bit ago that the greens are already “completely different” today than they were Thursday & Friday.
Who might that favor? There’s few better right now on difficult tracks than Brooks Koepka, and you’d expect guys like Justin Rose and Louis Oosthuizen to be well-positioned on Sunday. If we don’t dry out, things seem set up for elite drivers of the golf ball like Rory McIlroy and Gary Woodland.
Here’s a link to the leaderboard. Strap in, order some Thai takeout, and settle in. The leaders tee off at 5:45, let’s LIVEBLOG.
LIVEBLOG & UPDATES
7:08pm: We’re at hour seven of coverage, I’ve had a pizza, and needed to grab a 30 minute nap. So far, the story of the day is golf’s number one bucket-getter — Gary Woodland. He’s played mistake three through the easier first seven holes, and tacked on two birdies to stretch his lead to four. Now comes the fun part as he’ll turn toward the 8th.
Another hole, another birdie.— Golf Digest (@GolfDigest) June 15, 2019
Gary Woodland leads by FOUR. pic.twitter.com/XBp1rOpstZ
Oh, and look who’s T-2. That Brooks Koepka guy. He’s just made a birdie at the 10th to pull even with Justin Rose at 7-under. Rory McIlroy hasn’t made much of a move yet at all, still back at 5-under par, and considering he’s onto the back nine already, it’s hard to imagine he’s going to pick up many shots on the way in.
For now, we’ll be watching to see if Koepka and Rose can chase down and narrow the gap with Woodland. Otherwise, we might be looking at a bit of a boring Sunday.
5:02pm: Just tuning in? You haven’t missed much! We’re now into hour five (!) of network coverage on Fox. Immediately after Tiger reeled off two birdies, he smashed the eject button by missing a couple of short putts he probably had to have. He’s back at +1 and now probably out of the event. Phil’s alive at 2-under par, but heading to the back nine and running out of scoreable holes. The closing stretch of 8-18 is playing at around 521-over-par coming into the day, while the field’s playing the opening seven holes at an aggregate 21-under. Bottom line: If you’re not getting out ahead early, you’re probably not going to take it deep under par today.
Scoring over all seems more difficult than the past two days, as projected. Patrick Cantlay’s 68 is the low round of the day thus far, and Tyrell Hatton posted 69 a bit earlier. No other player to finish today has broken 70.
Just heading off? Here comes Brooks, off the tee at 1 with a lazer long-iron right into position.
Now the fun starts.
3:26pm: If you’ve been watching the Fox broadcast for the past three hours, there hasn’t been much to see. Lots of Joel Klatt teeing up pieces about The Tap Room, occasionally Rafa Cabrera Bello chopping it around the front nine. Rickie’s had a nice, yet meaningless round. But finally, we’ve got some things to watch.
Tiger and Phil are both out on the course, as is Jordan Spieth. All three aren’t out of it with 36 holes to go, but they’re hardly in it either. Depending on what goes with the leaders later, you’re probably looking at 67 or better from each of those guys if you’re trying to get in the conversation seriously for Sunday.
Cat’s the deepest into his round, and after a couple early bogeys, he’s reeled off back-to-back birds headed to the par-5 6th. Stay tuned. Fireworks might be incoming.
Two guys off to hot starts that have been out in the wilderness for awhile: Hideki and Danny Willett. They’ve got seven birdies and no bogeys between them already on their opening nines, and are to 3-under and 4-under respectively.