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ARDMORE, Pa. —
On a day in which only two players finished below par, a trio of former Oklahoma State players kept their U.S. Open title hopes going into the weekend at Merion Golf Club.
Despite starting the day at 2-over and moving to 3-over with a bogey at the 18th, back-to-back birdies helped Hunter Mahan finish the day at even-par. Mahan sits in 13th place and leads the Cowboy golfers, but still has three holes left in his second round.
A day after having his first round shortened because of delays and darkness, Bo Van Pelt shook off a 3-over-par first round to come back to tally a 1-over in his second round to finish tied 23rd.
Mahan and Van Pelt may have turned in a pair of respectable rounds for an unyielding course, but the same couldn’t be said for Rickie Fowler.
After scrambling to an even-par Thursday thanks to five birdies, Fowler’s struggles continued to get the best of him in the second round. Along with a double bogey on No. 3, the former Cowboy standout recorded three straight bogeys on the sixth, seventh and eighth holes before closing out the round with a bogey on No. 12 before darkness set in. Even so, Fowler still is in line to make the cut, finishing tied for 33rd at 5-over with four holes left.
While Mahan, Van Pelt and Fowler’s tournament will continue Saturday, two other former Cowboys didn’t make it to the weekend.
Morgan Hoffmann and Casey Wittenberg both failed to make the cut, shooting 10-over in the tournament.
Hoffmann was sporadic to say the least, tallying three birdies but five bogeys and a double bogey to finish the day at 4-over. Wittenberg was a little more consistent, shooting just 1-over in his second round, but his 9-over first round put a damper on his chances of making the cut.
Phil Mickelson made his first birdie on his last putt. Billy Horschel never missed a green. It was all they could do to barely break par against Merion, which is turning out to be the real star of this U.S. Open.
Nearly half the field did not finish the second round when it was suspended by darkness. Moments after the horn sounded to stop play, Mickelson opted to finish his round and drilled a 20-foot birdie putt for a 2-over 72. That gave him a share of the clubhouse lead with Horschel, who made it as easy as possible by hitting every green in regulation for a 67.
They were at 1-under 139.
Even with the round not finished, it was becoming clear that this U.S. Open might be up for grabs until the very end. Tiger Woods, who grimaced with every shot out of the rough because of pain in his left elbow, was at 3-over 143 and still very much in the game.
“I don’t know how anyone is going to separate too far from the field,” Mickelson said. “There might be a hot round tomorrow, and they might get a hot round on Sunday, but unlikely to be the same player.”
No one was hotter than Horschel, playing in his first U.S. Open since he was a 19-year-old in college.
Nothing is tougher than Merion, the little course in the tony suburbs of Philadelphia that even in rain-softened conditions is showing plenty of might. And to think there was chatter at the start of the week about the potential for the first 62 in major championship history.
Luke Donald (72), Justin Rose (69) and Steve Stricker (69) were at even-par 140.
The surprise were a pair of amateurs — Michael Kim of the University of California and Cheng-Tsung Pan of Taiwan. They were 2 under for their round and among those who didn't finish.
The long day, brought on by storm delays on Thursday, began with cool conditions and patches of light rain that eventually gave way to sunshine. That led players to wonder how much tougher Merion will be once it starts to dry out.
Horschel hit all 18 greens in regulation, a stellar achievement at a regular tour event, let alone the U.S. Open. It sent USGA officials searching for hours to find the last time anyone failed to miss a green in the toughest test in golf. Records of that detail only go back as far as 1989. That last documentation of someone doing that was Johnny Miller when he closed with a 63 at Oakmont to win in 1973.