19 Sep 2020 | Professional golf |

Aussie quartet still eye big prize

by Mark Hayes

Lucas Herbert splashes from the sand on the 14th at Winged Foot. Picture: USGA
Lucas Herbert splashes from the sand on the 14th at Winged Foot. Picture: USGA

They’re a distance behind, but Adam Scott firmly believes the reduced Aussie contingent still has valid US Open aspirations.

Australia’s nine-strong tilt became four today as Winged Foot bit back on a brutal scoring day in New York.

The task of following up countryman Geoff Ogilvy’s 2006 heroics is now left with Cameron Smith (+4), Scott (+5), Lucas Herbert and Jason Day (both +6).

And while those scores sound distant from leader Patrick Reed’s four under halfway total, none are without a chance should the infamous course continue to have its fangs sharpened for the weekend.

Smith’s highlight came early with a brilliant long iron to the second for his lone birdie. The Queenslander held it together well for much of his round, but a leaked drive into sand on 17 consigned him to a second late bogey on his way to a second-round 73.

Scott appeared frustrated when some back-nine putts didn’t drop, but he made a wonderful two-putt par on the last to enable him to sign for a 74.

Uncustomarily, the 40-year-old has made 12 bogeys in his opening 36 holes, but his chances of a weekend resurrection are bolstered by the seven birdies he’s already carded.

“It's a lot to digest really. When it gets tough at a US. Open … unless you shoot even par, you're trying to figure out how it's all a positive,” said Scott, who was three over after four holes of his second round.

“It's just very, very hard to get in a rhythm out there because if you're just off the fairway, you're just slashing and scrambling.

“It's a hard start and a hard finish and I got off to a bad start. I finished well, hung in there. I still like my chances for the weekend.

“I've got to play a great round tomorrow. (But) if I shoot under par tomorrow, I'll be right in the mix for Sunday.

“I'm confident now, after seeing what was out there this afternoon, (that) over par will win this tournament.

“The greens finally dried out. If there's any breeze, over par is winning.”

Herbert, who began his round on the 10th with a double-bogey, looked in trouble in the sand off the tee on the tough 17th when already four over for his round.

But a world-class scrambled par kept his mojo bubbling. A second double-bogey on the first threatened to derail him again, but back-to-back birdies on the second and third – the latter from a greenside bunker blast – was just reward for his efforts in a blue-collar 74.

“I just didn’t get much to go my way early, but I got it in the house as needed,” said Herbert, who, like Scott, maintained he wasn’t too far back to get back in the mix because of the course’s propensity to throw up large scores.

“It’s brutal. I aimed at two flags the entire day with my approach shots … and there would be five holes on the course (that) you may as well take bogey as soon as you miss the fairway.”

Day, as it turned out after a subsequent bogey on the 18th, made a rare and brilliant birdie on the 17th to ensure he made the cut on the number.

Like his compatriots, his 74 doesn’t sound great, but came after three bogeys in the first five holes set him up for a meritorious day-long fight.

Matt Jones was the pick of the other Aussies on day two, but his 74 still left him at 10 over.

Marc Leishman’s papers were stamped when he took a double-bogey seven on the long 12th hole en route to a 78 and 11 over, alongside Curtis Luck who signed for a 76 to end his US Open debut.

Melbourne amateur Lukas Michel, for the second straight day, made two birdies on the front nine. But similarly, he was outgunned on the back nine where he again made two double-bogeys en route to a 77 and 17 over finish.

And in near darkness, Scott Hend almost made a spectacular birdie up the last, but could only watch as his putt slid by almost to sum up his 84 that left him at 18 over.


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