More golfers shot 85 or worse than shot under par on Friday in the second round of the 2020 U.S. Open at Winged Foot. Folks, the national championship has officially begun. After 21 players finished Thursday's first round under par, only six remain there going into Saturday's third round.
And it's not like the USGA is intent on making their premier event easier as the week wears on. It might not be another massacre at Winged Foot like we saw in 1974, but there will for sure be a war over the next 36 holes for the first major trophy of the season.
Patrick Reed leads at 4 under, and that is fitting in so many ways. His on-course toughness is maybe chief among them. Reed hit just 10 fairways through two rounds, but he absolutely battled his way to a 66-70 start at one of the nastiest tests in all of golf. He's one of just four golfers who shot par or better in each of the first two rounds.
Not only is Reed set up well on the leaderboard, but his game sets up well to navigate the next 36 holes. Though he's not necessarily one of the elite tee-to-green players in the game today, he might be the best (and toughest) scrambler in the field. If he goes, he won't go quietly this weekend, and he leads our list of those currently in contention after 36 holes best situated to beat the fire the USGA will throw at this field at Winged Foot over the last two rounds.
1. Patrick Reed (-4): Though Reed only has one top 10 at a U.S. Open (T4 in 2018), his short game is perfect for this kind of test. The more tucked the pins get, the better his chipping and putting will look, even in a field like this. The concern here is whether his driver will take him too far out of it for the short game to even matter.
2. Justin Thomas (-2): He absolutely went to work over the last eight holes on Friday after making double at his 10th hole of the day. It was coming unraveled, and he had absolutely nothing off the tee. He's a low-key grinder, though, and he can be as creative as Reed around the greens. He's also a much better iron player. If he can straighten it out off the tee, he'll most likely win.
3. Jon Rahm (+1): Five back of Reed, Rahm quietly sneaked in at 1 over early in the day on Friday, and he has been absolutely crushing on the weekend over the last few months. Six of his last seven Sunday rounds have been 66 or better, and the one that was not was a 75 in an event he went on to win. If I'm leading, he's the one that terrifies me. He's also in the top 10 this week from tee to green.
4. Xander Schauffele (E): He's a stud at events like this (three straight top-six finishes at the three U.S. Opens he's played), and he has no holes. If I have to wager on somebody who will definitely finish inside the top 10, it's Schauffele.
5. Bryson DeChambeau (-3): I did not see this coming. Big Bryson banging drivers all over the yard at A.W. Tillinghast's Mona Lisa, and it actually working was quite unexpected. I'll say this about his performance: When it works, it absolutely works. But there's also the opportunity for it to go quite badly over the next 36. I have to have him here because he's in solo second, but I do not feel great about the final two rounds.
6. Harris English (-2): He has been absolutely flushing the golf ball for about two straight months. Currently third in this field from tee to green, and though he's not the first guy you think of when you think of elite short games, it won't matter if he keeps hitting it like he's hitting it right now.
7. Tony Finau (+2): He's been the worst putter among the best ball-strikers. That's absolutely a recipe to move forward when everybody is flailing on a nasty course on the weekend. If he shoots 70-70 -- and based on how he's hitting it, he very well could -- he'll probably win by a couple on Sunday.
8. Hideki Matsuyama (E): He was the only player under par in the afternoon, and he's been the second-worst putter other than Finau (of the top ball-strikers). His wedges are immaculate (see chip below), and he won't fade as the pin positions get more difficult. Give me one hot putting round, Hideki!
9. Louis Oosthuizen (+1): It was difficult to narrow it down here between Oosthuizen, Joaquin Niemann, Matthew Wolff and Thomas Pieters. I'll go with experience over firepower, though, and watch Oosthuizen climb the board by pounding par all day on Saturday.