Rickie Fowler still firmly in hunt after tough Round 2 at U.S. Open

US Open-Rickie Fowler Michael Madrid/USA TODAY Sports

Rickie Fowler still firmly in hunt after tough Round 2 at U.S. Open

PGA Tour

Rickie Fowler still firmly in hunt after tough Round 2 at U.S. Open

 

ERIN, Wis. – There’s a requirement for survival at a U.S. Open, which happens to be golf’s ultimate test. In order to be there on Sunday, to give oneself a chance, you have to find a way to stick around. Claw. Scratch. Fight. But find a way.

It’s easy when you’re firing at flagsticks and the hole looks as big as a bucket, as it did on Thursday morning for Rickie Fowler, when he tied a U.S. Open record in relation to par by opening with a 7-under 65 at Erin Hills. But on Friday, after running off 28 relatively stress-free holes without a bogey, the mojo suddenly left, and Fowler found himself scrapping and scraping so as not to lose too much ground.

Rickie Fowler-US Open

Rickie Fowler is ready for a stretch run this weekend. (Michael Madrid/USA TODAY Sports)

He’d shoot 1-over 73, which is no 65, but it’s far better than the high number it could have become. Fowler would make terrific saves from Nos. 16 (getting an awkward bunker shot up and down) and 17 (where he cooked his second from the rough over the green) just to make some pars and give himself some momentum to hold onto heading into the weekend. At 6-under 138, he trails four players by a shot as he readies for 36 more holes at Erin Hills.

“We’re in a good spot,” said Fowler, 28, who is part of a different sort of leaderboard at this week’s U.S. Open: Of the top 18 players on the board, not a single one, including Fowler, has ever won a major. So there’s a very good chance this weekend that the run of first-time major winners dating to the 2015 PGA (Jason Day) will extend to seven.

Fowler finished in the top 5 in all four majors in 2014, and it appeared that would be his springboard to the next level. But that hasn’t happened. After tying for a distant second at the 2014 U.S. Open at Pinehurst No. 2, Fowler missed the cut in his last two U.S. Open starts. So it’s nice just to be around and have a chance.

His experience certainly was an asset on Friday when his round began to go awry. He tugged a 3-wood into the rough at the par-4 11th that led to bogey, then three-putted his next two holes. Twenty-eight holes without a bogey, followed by three consecutive. All the while, another player in his group, Hideki Matsuyama, was busy shooting his own 65.

“I’m playing the weekend,” Fowler said. “I have a tee time on Saturday, so you just kind of learn along the way to never really give up. You never know what one shot’s going to count for.”

That’s why his nifty par saves at 16 and 17 appeared to be so significant.

“It was nice to get the saves, for sure,” he said. “Really, 16 and 17, just to keep myself in good position. As of right now, I’m one shot back … but just more so for the confidence going into tomorrow.”

The greens remained receptive on Friday, but began to firm up later in the day. Fowler’s numbers over 24 hours went from 12 fairways, 15 greens and 27 putts to 11 fairways, 12 greens and 31 putts. Conditions were tougher, and it was a day when a round could get away from a player. Fowler hung in there, and now he has a big opportunity to capture his national Open.

“It’s going to be a fun weekend,” he said.

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