Aberg leads by one and McKibbin sees weekend action at Pinehurst

It was the rollercoaster ride we hoped for, and Pinehurst No. 2 duly delivered at the US Open on Friday as the drama unfolded left, right and center and a freezing Swede bested the heat and scorching pressure of the afternoon could handle.

And there are still two days to go!

Ludvig Åberg had yet to play in a major championship when he teamed up with Viktor Hovland to score a 9&7 victory over world number one Scottie Scheffler and reigning PGA champion Brooks Koepka at Marco Simone in Rome last September. He had yet to play in a major championship when he rolled into Augusta and pushed the most dominant force in the game to its limits. And he still had to play in a US Open – also known as golf’s toughest test – when he arrived in North Carolina, but on all stages he looks at the native manor.

Twice on Friday afternoon he hit -6, and twice the beautifully landscaped course controlled his run, but otherwise it was a near-flawless display of patient golf and ice-cold execution. But at -5 he is only one ahead and Bryson DeChambeau, Thomas Detry and Patrick Cantlay are hot on his heels, while Rory McIlroy is one shot further back.

“I think a US Open should be difficult. It should be tough, and it should challenge every aspect of your game and I feel like it really does,” the budding professional said afterwards. “But I’ve been extremely lucky with the way things have gone over the last few days, and hopefully we can keep this going… I think Augusta proved to me that I could be in that position. and it was more of a justification of: yes, you can actually be there and compete on Sunday. Then of course the golf course also played very difficult. Just like this one, it took a lot of patience and discipline.

“I feel like the experiences I had in April were great. Hopefully we will draw some similarities between these. All we’re trying to do is shoot the best we can and see where that goes.”

Where it ends for now is a Saturday duo in the final group with DeChambeau, while Cantlay and Detry McIlroy and Tony Finau will follow.

McIlroy had started the day level with Cantlay after being in full control of his opening round of five, but at a US Open everyone wobbles and if it turns out that Friday was his wobble then limiting the damage to two strokes was just as Good. as he could have asked for, and Moving Day will surely live up to its name one way or another.

Tiger Woods, Max Homa, Viktor Hovland, Jason Day, Will Zalatoris, Dustin Johnson, Phil Mickelson and Justin Rose are just some of the names on the outside looking in after the 36-hole cut, but Tom McKibbin isn’t one of them them .

Playing in his first major championship, the 21-year-old Holywood man may have struggled a bit in his opening round, but on day two the equation was simple. Limit damage to a stroke or two if you’re around all weekend, and on a course as challenging as Pinehurst – and one that quickly became firmer – that was no easy task.

As the day went on, it became more and more likely that +5 would be the number and it took him one hole in the second round to get to that number. A birdie on the fifth was canceled out by a bogey on eight and when he dropped another shot on 12, there was a good chance he would go home with a great learning experience, but not much else. Standing on the 18th tee it was reduced to ‘birdie or bust’.

His wedge to 16 feet was clutch, his putt was even better, and with the shackles slightly removed and an early start time on Saturday, it’s possible to make big strides up the leaderboard and a healthy supply of World Ranking and Race to Dubai points to earn, along with a big paycheck.

Shane Lowry will be thinking the same way after shooting a one-over 71 in the early wave, which prevented him from fully relaxing until it became certain +5 was enough, but Seamus Power, who had started the day at +1, limped to a six-over in the second round and missed the cut by two, the same score as Tiger Woods playing in possibly his last US Open.