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5 Things We Learned: Friday at the U.S. Open

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Any weather concerns that surfaced earlier have vanished, meaning that the 2024 US Open, the 124th of its kind, will finish on time and without distraction nor interruption. Golfers that posted plus-six or higher have missed the cut, reducing the field of competitors to 74. The likes of Viktor Hovland, Max Homa, Will Zalatoris and, yes, Tiger Woods, will not figure any longer, in the outcome of this year’s playing. The leader stands currently at minus-five, and has 19 other golfers at even-par or better, heading into the weekend.

Neither of the day-one leaders succeeded in shooting below par on day two, so the lead did not stretch over the second 18 holes. Will something similar happen on Saturday? Will a golfer rise from the chasers, to seize the 54-hole lead?  It’s quite early to say, but certainly the Open will not be won on Saturday. It will be lost by more than a handful, so grab your snacks and buckle up for a Carolina shoot-out on day three. As for five things that we learned on day two, we have them!

1. Ludvig the Oh-Bear leads the Open

Ludvig Aberg posted one of the 24 rounds under 70 on Friday. Those scores ranged down to the 66 posted by Hideki Matsuyama. Aberg made half as many birdies (three) as he did on Thursday, but he also made just two bogeys, the same number as day one. It’s safe to say that Aberg will take two bogeys per round over the next two days, as long as no big numbers creep onto his scorecard. 2024 may be his first US Open, but history is filled with first-time winners. It has been a while for this national championship, so why not this year?

Solid Quote: … I played the U.S. Amateur here a couple years ago. I think just with the way those greens are, when it gets really firm, and just because you don’t really have any bail-out areas, you’ve just got to take on the golf shots and see where it ends up, and if you don’t pull it off, you’re going to have a really tricky short game shot. I think it’s a challenging golf course, but once again, that’s the way it was supposed to be.

2. Three x Four equals ???

Bryson DeChabeau, Thomas Detry, and Patrick Cantlay all concluded play on Friday evning at 136 total strokes. Cantlay and Detry will tee on in the penultimate pairing, while DeChambeau will match wills with the second-round leader in the day’s final game.

Detry reached six-under par through 14 holes, before two late bogeys brought him back to the field. The Belgian had nine one-putt greens on day two at Pinehurst. His T4 finish at this year’s PGA Championship gave him a bit of experience on how to manage his game through the waning moments of a major. Can he repeat the achievement in Pinehurst?

Cantlay was not the same golfer that signed for 65 on Thursday. He posted but three birdies on Friday, and stumbled with double at eight, and a pair of bogeys on the inward side. As for DeChambeau, he was able to achieve the all important ratio of more-birdies-than-bogeys for a second consecutive day. Which of the three will persevere, and feature on Sunday?

Solid Quote: I (Detry) always tend to do better at courses where pars gains on the field. I feel like this week, you make a par, you gain on the field, keep moving on. I always seem to do better that way. It puts a little bit less pressure on my putting. When I have a birdie chance, it’s like a bonus. I’ve done a great job of taking advantage of it today, I think.

3. Trio at three-deep has eyes on a day-three move

Rory McIlroy, Tony Finau, and Matthieu Pavon finished play on day two at 137 strokes. Neither Rory nor Pavon was able to produce a second consecutive round under par, but they did what was necessary, during a round when they had much less than their best. As for Finau, his move to a new putting grip paid off, and he posted 69 to move inside the top five. Much like the three-pack mentioned in point number two, we have an outsider, a potential winner, and a favorite in this group. Among these three, the standout will certainly be …

Solid Quote:  It’s just work. As I (Pavon) say, work, discipline, learning from the past mistakes you’ve done. The most dangerous guy is the one that learns from mistakes. That’s my opinion. I failed a lot. Helped me to understand a couple things in my game, in my swing. I finally got my first win in Europe. Bring me a lot of confidence because it was showing to me and myself that we were on the right road on everything we were, like, doing in terms of training and stuff like that.

4. Hideki rebounds with perfect card

There was a point on Thursday, during a tournament feed, when one of the commentaors contrasted Hideki’s win at Augusta in 2021 with his struggles on Pinehurst’s greens. Between that time and Friday evening, Hideki figured out those putting surfaces, to the tune of four birdies and zero bogeys. What’s frightening is, Matsuyama (see below) still feels that there is room for improvement. Imagine if he straightens out the other facets of his game!

Solid Quote:  I feel like my short game is really good. Feel like there’s plenty of adjustment to my iron game. Hopefully I can adjust that through the week.

5. Prediction time!

I’m happy to provide a few predictions, to get you through the morning hours on Saturday. My prescience is unrivaled by any, and my predictive abilities have no equal. I may not be Francesco Molinari, who brought drama to a new level with a 36th-hole ace to make the cut, but I do know a thing or two about major championships. Without delay, here are a few predictions about Saturday at Pinehurst:

Leader after three rounds: Bryson DeChambeau

Falls away, predictably: Matthieu Pavon

Falla away, unexpectadly: Patrick Cantlay

Struggles, but sticks around: Ludvig Alberg and Rory McIlroy

Jumps into the mix, thanks to a 65: Billy Horschel

Solid Quote: (in case you forgot how difficult this is, courtesy of the defending champion, Wyndham Clark) If you miss a green, even though you give yourself all the green in the world, it should be somewhat of an easy up-and-down, but you’re into the grain on your chip and then you have to go uphill and then downgrain. It was just difficult. It’s really easy to make bogeys out here.

 

 

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Ronald Montesano writes for GolfWRX.com from western New York. He dabbles in coaching golf and teaching Spanish, in addition to scribbling columns on all aspects of golf, from apparel to architecture, from equipment to travel. Follow Ronald on Twitter at @buffalogolfer.

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5 Things We Learned: Thursday at the U.S. Open

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I’ve posted on social media that I’m not convinced that the viewing public is ready for three U.S. Open tournaments at Pinehurst #2, over a twelve-year span. I like the course and I love the sandhills, but the deuce is not a visually-stunning course. The topography, with the exception of holes four and five, is flattish. Flattish not in an Old Course way. Flattish in a where’s-the-movement way. I have erred in judgment, and it is possible that the television audiences will take to Donald Ross’ masterpiece in a manner that I did not anticipate.

This much I do know: many players took to the course with great affection on Thursday, aka Day One. Scores got as low as 65, and twenty golfers finished day one under par. This was not an easy day for scoring, either. With the exception of holes nine and ten, no other hole location could be labeled center of green. Competitors were forced to play to safe sides of putting surfaces, and encourage the putter to make a statement. Certainly, the USGA could make the targets even more precise, but chances are, they won’t.

What to expect? Hard to say, but five things that we do know, are elaborated below. Welcome to mid-June, and another US Open championship at Pinehurst. Welcome to five things we learned on day one of the 2024 US Open.

1. Is Patty Ice chillin’ again?

It’s hard to fathom that Patrick Cantlay has not won since August of 2022. In 2023, his performance for Team USA’s Ryder Cup side was decent, but not glowing nor glorious. With the rise of new talents, Captain America 2.0 has been relegated to an afterthought. It used to be When will he win a major and now it’s Will he win again. This week at Pinehurst, Cantlay might answer both questions with vigorous affirmation.

Cantlay was nearly flawless across the gem of Moore county. His 7:40 tee time was a boon, as the course was soft, windless, and untrampled. His only bogey came at the 15th hole, where his tee ball found sand and he was unable to get up and down for the sandy. His six birdies came at the first and last holes of the day, along with the fifth, sixth, eighth, and eleventh holes.

Solid Quote:  “I got the ball up and down on 7, made a bunch of putts inside, eight feet. I think around this golf course, you’re going to leave yourself putts inside eight feet. That four- to eight-foot range. It important that you hole out. I did that well today.”

2. The Oh-Bear stakes his claim

After we all mispronounced his name for the first six months of his professional career, we go to know the Oh-Bear when he won on tour and then earned statement victories at the 2023 Ryder Cup in Italy. On Thursday at number two, Ludvig Aberg signed for a 66 and reminded us all that he is a strengthening force in the world of golf. Aberg won last September on the DP World Tour, then again in November on the PGA Tour. In April, the Swedish lad posted a brilliant, runner-up finish at Augusta National, in the year’s first major championship.

Thursday saw a sextet of birdies wander onto Ludvig’s symphony. Like Cantlay, he made birdie at the first and the last. Holes five, nine, eleven, and twelve also surrendered stroke-savers. His hiccoughs came on the par-three sixth and the par-four fourteenth, where he made bogey. Aberg never appears to lose control nor confidence, and that system will serve him well over the next three days. Like Cantlay, Aberg will tee off in the afternoon wave on Friday. Both will see different course conditions, and their ability to adapt will serve them quite well.

Solid Quote: “Yeah, I think staying very disciplined is important. There’s a lot of pins where you don’t really think about going for. So me and Joe, my caddie, we have a lot of good conversations about certain areas that you try to hit it on.”

3. Peacock rides two eagles to three-under 67

Matthieu Pavon’s last name might translate as peacock from French, but eagles were his bird of choice on day one at Pinehurst. The first-time winner on the PGA Tour made but one birdie on the day, on the par-four eighth hole. He had twice as many bogeys, but that’s not his story. His day was made on the 5th and 10th holes, the two long holes at Pinehurst number two.

In his words, Pavon made his four best swings on the par five holes. He converted both eagle putts to save four more strokes, and ended his day at three-under par. Pavon transitioned from the courses of Europe to the layouts of the USA this season, and his learning curve has softened with each week. Pinehurst will provide as much challenge as any peacock needs, but this bird is already playing with house money.

Solid Quote: “It’s more about seeing breaks because when it’s slower, when you have less break, the ball doesn’t move as much as here. Here it’s really — it’s steep, it’s fast, it’s grainy, so the ball moves quite a lot. You have a lot of curves on the green.”

4. Rory roars to top

Can you say Clean card? Rory McIlroy went 18 holes at Pinehurst #2 without a bogey. He drove the ball supremely well, and putted with surgical precision. We all know the good news that came out of his personal world this week, so we can put Rory the person on the back burner, and focus entirely on Rory the golfer.

McIlroy was in the featured, afternoon triumvirate, with the two most recent major champions. Do you think he had something to prove? Aye. While the Masters champion managed a 71, and the PGA champion posted 70, Rory was the class of the 1:14 tee time. His birdies at four and five gave him early confidence, and his work on the inward half boosted him into his tie at the top. A birdie at ten restarted the momentum, and the Northern Irishman closed with two more birdies over the final three holes.

Solid Quote: “You’ve got to get lucky. I had a lot of really good numbers today where I could just go ahead and hit full shots. Whenever you’re hitting full shots into these greens, the ball is going to stop a little quicker than if you have to take something off or hit little three-quarter shots.”

5. Bryson stays the course and stays top five

The 2020 US Open champion, despite a well-publicized defection to a rival league, has been the most successful, non-PGA Tour golfer of late in majors. DeChambeau has done everything but win, finding top-seven finishes in each of this season’s grand slam events.

DeChambeau began his day on the second nine, where five of the top seven golfers opened their round. Birdies at 13 and 18 brought him through the turn at minus-two. Two more stroke-savers at three and five elevated him to within a shot of the lead. Even though he stumbled with bogey five at the seventh, DeChambeau finished the day at minus-three. Bryson will tee off at 7:40 on Friday, and much like Rory, will have a chance to post a number early and position himself for a weekend charge.

Solid Quote: “That putt on 6 today was crucial from 80 feet. I could have easily putted off the green as well as No. 9. Really making sure my speed control is good, starting lines are good. I did accomplish for the most part what I was trying to do today besides 7.”

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Morning 9: Tiger gets Bob Jones Award | Record U.S. Open purse | PGA Tour-PIF announcement next week?

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By Ben Alberstadt with Gianni Magliocco.

For comments: [email protected]

Good Thursday morning, golf fans, as day one of the U.S. Open gets underway!

1. Tiger accepts USGA’s Bob Jones Award

Ron Driscoll for the USGA…”Tiger Woods began competing in USGA championships at age 14, which is the same age that Bob Jones was when he competed in his first U.S. Amateur. It’s far from the only characteristic that Woods shares with the namesake of the USGA’s highest honor, which Woods received on Tuesday evening before the 2024 U.S. Open Championship at Pinehurst Resort & Country Club…”

  • “…In accepting the award, Woods called Jones “the greatest amateur who ever lived. All the attributes that we all try to aspire to in this great game of golf, that is what Bob Jones exuded.”
  • “Woods went on to honor his mother, Kultida, but not before joking that the first USGA event she attended was his final U.S. Amateur in 1996. Having won five straight USGA events, he said the pressure was enormous. “There she was in a Stanford sweatshirt; imagine if I had lost? But who did I hug first after I won, right, Mommy?”
  • “My mom doesn’t get enough credit,” Woods said. “It was Dad and I on the road, but my mom has been there my entire life, has always been there through thick and thin. I accept this award with humbleness and in unbelievable regard for the past recipients, but I also accept it for my mom, too. She allowed me to get here, to do these things, to chase my dreams, with support and love. I didn’t do this alone, I had the greatest rock that any child could possibly have. Thank you, Mommy.”
Full piece.

2. U.S. Open purse now stands at $21.5 million

Golf Channel staff…”This week’s U.S. Open offers a $21.5 million purse with the winner earning $4.3 million. That’s up from $20 million ($4 million to winner) a year ago.”

  • “It’s the largest purse among the four men’s majors, with The Players Championship paying $25 million.”
Full piece.

3. Pathway for top LIV players into future U.S. Opens?

Golf Channel’s Rex Hoggard…”For three years, the major championship bodies – Augusta National, USGA, PGA of America and R&A – have been reluctant to give players who joined LIV Golf a pathway into their events. But on Wednesday at Pinehurst, USGA CEO Mike Whan offered those players hope.”

  • “We’re going to talk about it this offseason, whether or not there needs to be a path to somebody or somebodies that are performing really well on LIV that can get a chance to play in that way,” Whan said. “I think we are serious about that. Exactly what that looks like and how that’ll curtail, I’m not just being coy, we haven’t done that yet.”
Full piece.

4. USGA looking at drivers?

Mike Stachura for Golf Digest…??”When the USGA and R&A announced in December that there would be a change in the way golf balls were tested that would make most models nonconforming, resulting in an estimated distance loss of as much as 15 yards at the elite level, it was seen as a way to penalize the fastest swingers in all of golf (top men professionals) while offering lesser and potentially inconsequential penalties at the recreational golfer level. While a similar rollback for the driver was contemplated in the early days of the ruling bodies’ research, that interest eventually waned, said Mike Whan, USGA CEO.”

  • “Yet during his U.S. Open-week press conference on Wednesday at Pinehurst No. 2, Whan talked about the distance deliberations and conversations with R&A CEO Martin Slumbers and indicated that the driver is still in the rollback crosshairs.”
  • “I would say comfortably speaking for both Martin and I, we had and have a real interest in figuring out a way to provide a difference as it relates to the driver, as well,” Whan said. “To date, we didn’t really come up with something that wouldn’t have a much more negative effect on the recreational game. What we did on the golf ball is going to have much more of an impact at [the elite] level than at the average level. When we started talking about changes in the driver or driving equipment, it was just the opposite. Much more significant impact across the board than just at the elite level.”
Full piece.

5. Last chance for Olympic spots

Nick Zaccardi for NBC Sports…”The U.S. Open is also a scramble for the last Olympic men’s golf spots in Paris.”

  • “After Sunday’s final round, the 60-player Olympic men’s field will be determined based on the Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR). The women’s field will be drawn from the Rolex Rankings after the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship next week.
  • “A nation can qualify up to four golfers per gender if they are all ranked in the top 15 in the world. A nation can qualify up to two golfers if any are ranked outside the top 15.
Full Piece.

6. Nelly’s proudest moment of 2024

Beth Ann Nichols for Golfweek…”Nelly Korda, a six-time winner on tour this season, says she was never more proud of herself this season than the U.S. Women’s Open. That might sound strange, given that she made a 10 on a par 3 and didn’t play the weekend.”

  • “But Korda is wise enough to see past the score.
  • “I’m not going to say that I was happy with the way I played,” she said. “I was happy with the way I fought. I fought really, really, hard to make the cut.”
Full Piece.

7. Bettors loving Scheffler

Doug Greenberg for ESPN…”The central betting story going into the U.S. Open is the same as it was before the Masters and the PGA Championship: Scottie Scheffler is an overwhelming favorite and is seeing some of the shortest odds for a major since prime Tiger Woods.

  • “The 27-year-old opened the week at +300 at ESPN BET and has been bet down to +290; across the marketplace, he’s as short as +250. It’s the shortest odds for any golfer to win the U.S. Open since Woods in 2007 (+250).”
  • “Despite the extremely short odds, Scheffler is still attracting a very healthy number of tickets and even more handle.”
Full Piece.

8. PGA Tour-PIF announcement next week?

9. U.S. Open photos

  • Check out all of our galleries from this week’s major event!
Full Piece.
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Equipment

Spotted: Phil Mickelson testing Callaway’s mini driver

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There is some serious equipment testing going on at Pinehurst’s legendary No. 2 course before the 2024 U.S. Open starts! We spotted renowned club tinkerer Phil Mickelson on the range with a new setup. He was testing out the new Callaway Paradym Ai Smoke Ti 340 Mini Driver with a new Mitsubishi Diamana BB (Blue Board) shaft.

Phil has long been a mini driver/2-wood/strong 3-wood guy, as he was the inspiration for the Callaway “Phranken Wood” about 10 years ago. For many pros, adding a strong 3-wood or mini driver allows them to turn it over easier and add a more consistent draw to their bag off the tee without losing too much distance.

Mitsubishi’s Diamana BB is the newest mid-launch shaft in the Diamana line. The “BB” on the shaft of course references the iconic Blue Board shafts from 20 years ago and this model will have a similar smooth feel.

 

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