Sweaters, umbrellas. Scottie Scheffler is in another major, and Oak Hill is a tough challenge.
Scheffler mixed birdies and superb recoveries from wet, tough rough Friday until one last wayward tee shot on the 18th cost him the lead but didn’t dampen his excitement.
After a 2-under 68, Scheffler shared the lead with Viktor Hovland and Corey Conners.
“I’ve kept the golf course in front of me and scrambled well the first two days,” he remarked. I want to hit more fairways tomorrow to make it easier for myself. But 2 under is good around here.”
Saturday’s rain won’t dampen Bryson DeChambeau and Brooks Koepka’s eagerness. They reconciled at the Saudi-funded LIV Golf League after two years of “Brooksy” chanting at DeChambeau.
That seems like ages ago, and both are thinking about majors. DeChambeau shot 71, two behind, while Koepka shot 66, three behind.
Conners fired a 68 after a tough back nine. Hovland’s 67 had one bogey.
5-under 135 with more diversity ahead. Saturday forecasted rain, Sunday wind, and 18 players separated by five shots.
Late surges by Koepka (31 on the back nine), McIlroy (69), Rahm, Spieth, and Thomas helped them reach the cut.
Scheffler, a Masters winner from a year ago, is the aim.
Hovland, who shared the 54-hole lead at St. Andrews last summer, is adjusting. In his 67, he lost only one ball early and finished with a 7-iron from damp, deep rough to 5 feet for birdie. He finished in the top 10 for the 10th consecutive major tournament.
Conners had a 68, creating a two-shot lead before relying on his short game to overcome several inaccurate drives and challenging holes on the front nine.
Two strokes ahead of DeChambeau and Justin Suh (68).
The top seven players were from one side of the draw. Freezing temperatures and grass frost delayed them by two hours. They dodged the wind Friday morning, and rain cooled Oak Hill.
The rain… “Thankfully we didn’t have any wind,” Hovland remarked. The rain shortened the ball. It makes the rough juicier. It softens the greens and lets you be a little more aggressive.”
Turnarounds were spectacular.
Shane Lowry closed with two bogeys following six birdies in eight holes in the wet afternoon. He scored a 67 to finish in a huge group at even-par 140, five strokes behind but still in contention.
That group includes club pro Michael Block (70) and Rory McIlroy, who felt like he hit the ball poorly and sounded like it on one drive with one choice remark, and was pleasantly shocked when he checked at the leaderboard to find himself in range.
“I think how terribly I’ve felt over the golf ball over the last two days, the fact that I’m only five back… I think that’s a positive thing, because I know if I can get it in play off the tee, that’s the key to my success over the weekend,” McIlroy said.
Some players were happy to survive the weekend.
Rahm, the Masters winner and world No. 1, began with a 76 and missed all his putts. He rescued a 68 with three straight birdies to make the cut by one stroke.
Spieth stepped off the tee at the drivable 14th expecting a birdie chance. He subsequently found such a terrible lay in a front bunker that his shot flew past the green, over the boundary fence, and into Irondequoit Country Club. He made the cut on the number after a bogey and clutch putts, including a 10-footer in the rain for a par on the final hole.
The elite players—major champions, PGA Championship debutants, PGA Tour rookies, and club professionals—are now the focus. All were five shots behind the leader.
DeChambeau started poorly, especially on the par-4 sixth hole, which delivered only three birdies out of 156 players and had an average score of 4.75. He made double bogey from a greenside bunker after two shots.
DeChambeau made his first birdie on the par-3 11th hole, hitting 6-iron from 248 yards to 6 feet, and had two more before a bogey finish.
He went to the range after nightfall.
I’m prepared. In 2020, DeChambeau won the U.S. Open at Winged Foot. “It’s been a few years, but it doesn’t mean I don’t know how, and if it’s not my time, it’s not. I’m now on the correct track.”