Justin Rose rolls with the punches to keep in touch with the leaders at the US PGA Championship… as fellow Englishman Tyrrell Hatton repairs some of the early damage but Phil Mickelson is downbeat
- Rose followed his first-round 69 with an adventurous 70 at Oak Hill on Friday
- Hatton bounced back from a 77 to card 68 in second round and reach five over
- Mickelson could still make the cut despite being ‘terrible’ in opening two rounds
The weeds are no place for a man named Justin Rose but sometimes the scenic route can still lead to good places.
In the case of the former US Open champion, that meant a 36-hole tally of one under par after he followed his first-round 69 with an adventurous 70 on Friday.
That is a solid number on this brutal stretch of land at Oak Hill, especially in consideration of how it was achieved. Ordinarily, this course is desperately unkind to those who are wayward off the tee, and to that end Rose hit only two fairways out of 14, but he rolled with the punches for a score that looked set to age well with time.
Given his place among the early starters, it was good enough for the clubhouse lead by mid-afternoon, and it is likely he will remain in the higher altitudes when the third round commences on Saturday, owing to the difficult weather for those still on the course.
They included Scottie Scheffler, who led on five under through six alongside Corey Conners, with Bryson DeChambeau on four under after two. Along with Rory McIlroy, who parred his first five holes with some better drives, their opening shots were played amid rain showers.
Justin Rose followed his first-round 69 with an adventurous 70 at Oak Hill on Friday
For Rose, whose win at Pebble Beach in February was his first in four years, it was another good day at work.
‘I think it went pretty well,’ he said. ‘The golf course was tough – I thought the setup was remarkably difficult, as well, considering the strength of the wind. I am happy to finish under par. I’ve kind of struggled to get the ball in play off the tee, which is obviously critical around here, so it’s been a pretty good effort.
‘It’s smoke and mirrors, I guess. The fact that I made 10 pars is remarkable considering how I’ve put the ball in play off the tee.
‘I think historically I’ve won on harder golf courses, so I think it fits my profile from that point of view. This course is right up there and I’m looking forward to the test, I think.
‘Winning at Pebble Beach was important for proving I can win again, obviously. Not necessarily just winning, but how I won. I felt very, very comfortable once I kind of got into that winning position. I’ve done it before, and just the fact of knowing I can do it again is important.’
In what was a long day, Rose was back on the course at 7am to finish the final four holes of his first round, which had been delayed by the frost on Thursday. He was well-placed at one under when he resumed on the 15th and that was the same score on which he started his second loop shortly afterwards.
The advantage was that he would do his work in the brighter morning conditions and he capitalised well. Opening on the back nine, Rose sank a 15-foot putt for birdie on the 10th, scrambled a par from the sand at the next, and holed a 26-footer to gain another stroke at the par-four 12th.
His drives were repeatedly missing the fairways, but despite the stiff penalties for a lack of accuracy at this place, he was riding it out with a hot putter and excellent iron play. Combined, they bought him another birdie via the rough at 16, before a bogey at 18 triggered a run of five straight pars. It wasn’t until the sixth that Rose actually hit a fairway – his 15th hole of the round – but on the hardest par four on the course he bogeyed to return to two under. A third dropped shot at seven took to him one over, where he stayed.
Tyrrell Hatton bounced back from a 77 to card a 68 in the second round and reach five over
Phil Mickelson could still make the cut despite being ‘terrible’ in the opening two rounds
Less success went the way of Dustin Johnson, who opened at three under after an excellent 67 but coughed up four shots in his 74 on Friday, including a double at six.
His playing partner, Tyrrell Hatton, went the other way with a 68 on the back of a 77 to reach five over, repairing some of the damage. That put him a shot inside the projected cut of six over, as was Phil Mickelson. The divisive American, who has fired a 73 and 72, said: ‘I came in here very optimistic and the first two days I’ve played terrible.’
The story of the opening day belonged to Eric Cole, the world No 122, who had led at five under with four to play when he resumed play in the morning. Returning to the middle of the sixth fairway, he promptly dumped his approach in the water and his day only got worse – a second-round 74 means a 36-hole status of four over.
Replacing him in the feel-good stakes was American club pro Michael Block, 46. Back-to-back rounds of 70 had him stationed on even par.
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