Viktor Hovland has withdrawn from the 2021 U.S. Open after getting sand in his left eye. He was 25-1 to win coming into the week at Torrey Pines. Hovland was seen by a physician on the course at No. 11 and tried playing through, but had four bogeys over his next five holes. He then made the turn at No. 1 (after starting on No. 10) and double-bogeyed the first before withdrawing.
Richard Bland has never won a major championship. He's never even won an event on the PGA Tour. And yet, the 48-year-old Englishman finds himself at the center of the 2021 U.S. Open through two rounds of play after firing a second-round 67 on Friday, making him co-leader of the championship with Russell Henley entering Moving Day at Torrey Pines.
Henley nearly took the lead himself into Saturday before a bogey-free round of golf was spoiled on his final hole. He turned in a 1-under 70. Both Henley and Bland will head to Round 3 at 5 under, holding a one-stroke edge on Louis Oosthuizen.
A successful 36-hole sprint to the finish won't come easy for Bland or Henley on the unforgiving terrain of Torrey Pines, especially not on this mega-stage with this field in pursuit. Adding to the pressure of Oosthuizen and Bubba Watson (both one stroke back), Jon Rahm is lurking two strokes behind and Bryson DeChambeau, Brooks Koepka and Collin Morikawa are all lurking within striking distance.
It should make for one fascinating weekend. For now, here's a rundown of the leaderboard after Round 2.
T1. Richard Bland, Russell Henley (-5): With two career wins -- one on the European Tour earlier this year and the other on the Challenge Tour in 2001 (!) -- Bland's unlikely rise up the leaderboard Friday is a story developing with potential to be one of the more incredible stories in golf. This is Bland's second showing at the U.S. Open (after missing the cut in 2009), and he's in position to make his first career PGA Tour win at a major championship amidst a loaded field of stars. Golf! Henley started his round with eight pars and a birdie before making the turn. He then went on another par streak of seven before dropping in a birdie and finally closing with a bogey -- thanks to a missed two-foot putt -- to get in at 70. Sour taste on the last hole aside, it was an overall brilliant round of golf to buttress his first-round 67.
T3. Louis Oosthuizen, Matthew Wolff (-4): Tied for the lead through Round 1, Oosthuizen held firm in Round 2 with a 1 over on the front and 1 under on the back. His putter wasn't quite as hot as it was Thursday -- he was top-10 in the field in strokes gained in Round 1 -- but he had just two bogeys all round and took 26 total putts, quite a bit better than field average. Wolff was the big surprise here. After taking two months off from competitive action, his first-round 70 was a nice story, but it didn't feel sustainable. He backed that up Friday with a 3-under 68, playing his final 12 holes at 4 under. Wolff is a wunderkind with a wonky swing -- the blend of talent and moxie that is at a premium on the Tour -- so having him in the chase entering Saturday is a fantastic story.
T5. Jon Rahm, Bubba Watson (-3): An up-and-down start to the day for Rahm, who was the betting favorite prior to the tournament starting, finally leveled off Friday afternoon after holing out from the bunker on the par-4 14th hole. The only area of the game he lost strokes to the field on was his driver, which was Thursday (and typically is always) a strength. That he managed a 1-under round despite this speaks to just how sound Rahm is playing right now, and he's squarely in the hunt entering Moving Day. Watson had one of the best rounds of the week in Round 2 to position himself in the red entering Saturday. He finished his 4-under 67 with seven birdies, capping off just his fourth ever score under par in 42 career U.S. Open rounds, according to Justin Ray.
T7. Xander Schauffele, Kevin Streelman, Mackenzie Hughes (-2): A pretty fast start to the day for Schauffele with back-to-back birdies after a bogey on No. 1 got him on course to really post a number. He then made the turn at 2 under, but he played his final nine at 1 over, ultimately failing to take advantage of some good driving positions. He's been top 10 on the PGA Tour this season in strokes gained putting, but Friday marked the second consecutive round at Torrey that he's lost strokes to the field with the putter.
T14. Bryson DeChambeau, Brooks Koepka, Collin Morikawa, Justin Thomas (E): DeChambeau, the 2020 U.S. Open winner, didn't have his best stuff in Round 1 but found some of his better form Friday with a 2-under 69 to get to even on the tournament. He weathered four bogeys with four birdies and a memorable eagle on the par-5 18th. He said after his round that some answers to his problems came to him in the middle of the night. Really. DeChambeau's budding rival, Koepka, posted a forgettable 2-over 73 in Round 2. His putter wasn't the magic eraser it was Thursday, and he hit just eight of 14 fairways on the round, well below the field average. A lot of it was a grind after a strong start where he picked up momentum from Round 1. Hanging to within five strokes of the lead, he's still positioned to claim his third U.S. Open in the last five years.
Morikawa, the 2020 PGA Champion, turned in the low round of the day Friday with a 4-under 67 thanks to a birdie-birdie-birdie-birdie finish on the front nine. Morikawa's putter still gave him a few fits, but he gained strokes on the field with it. When he's able to do that and couple it with his skill as a ball-striker, it makes a ton of sense why he was able to climb back into this -- and why he's a contender entering the weekend. Thomas had a similarly great round as Morikawa, quietly turning in a 2-under 69. He leaned on his putter in a big way and was able to string together some incredible iron shots, including a hole-out from the bunker on the par-3 16th.
T21. Rory McIlroy and nine others (+1): The Rory rollercoaster was riding full speed Friday. He had four bogeys and three birdies in his first nine holes. That continued down the stretch as he bogeyed 2, 4 and 5 before catching birdies on 6 and 9 coming home. It was once again a full-send from him off the tees Friday that paid dividends for him, but he had too many misjudged putts -- be it because pace or slope -- that really ate into any chance he had to move up the leaderboard.