Rose’s short game at Pebble to keep early lead at US Open
PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. — Justin Rose wasn’t too bothered by two poor swings that slowed his momentum Friday in the U.S. Open. He had too many great par saves that kept him atop the leaderboard when he finished his second round at Pebble Beach.
Rose, leading by as many as four shots among the early starters, had to settle for a 1-under 70 that sends him into the weekend in good shape to pursue another U.S. Open. He was two shots ahead of Aaron Wise, who had an equal share of good and bad for a 71.
Tiger Woods was seven shots behind, and it felt like more.
Woods made a birdie on his second hole, and then missed everything else the rest of the day. Outside of his lone birdie from 10 feet on No. 11, he didn’t make a putt longer than 5 feet.
Two-time defending champion Brooks Koepka started slowly and finished with two late birdies for another 69. He was three shots behind in his bid to match a 114-year record with a third straight U.S. Open title.
Rose was at 7-under 135 as Rory McIlroy, Rickie Fowler and others played in the afternoon.
“At this point, there’s not a lot to worry about,” Rose said. “If you’re one ahead, one behind, it’s a lot of golf to be played. But it’s the perfect spot after two days.”
For a short time, it looked as though it might be even better.
Conditions were roughly the same as the first round, with very little wind and cool clouds so thick that condensation felt like a light mist. Rose started slowly, even dropped his putter when a 12-foot birdie chance brazed the edge of the cup, his fifth straight par to start the round.
He reached 8 under for the tournament with a bold 7-iron into 3 feet for birdie on the par-4 second. He was four shots ahead, and his tee shot on No. 3 left him just 85 yards away from a front pin.
And that’s when it turned.
Rose came up short of the green and had to scramble for par. Then, he was torn between driver or an iron off the fourth tee, never got settled and hit his iron over the edge of the cliff and into the ice plant.
That led to bogey, and it was all pars the rest of the way.
“I felt like the third hole, I lost a bit of momentum,” Rose said. “Great opportunity there. Was definitely a birdie opportunity, and then laid up in the hazard on No. 4. A bit of lapse of concentration there.”
But he didn’t overlook the good, and there was plenty of that, especially for par. The biggest two were his final two holes, when Rose got up-and-down from choppy rough short of the eighth green, and 50-foot lag up the slope on the ninth green to end on a good note.
“I made up one shot on the lead,” Jordan Spieth said after his seven-birdie round of 69. “It felt like more, but Rosey … that’s the best I’ve seen somebody get up-and-down around the golf course for two rounds, maybe ever.”
That’s high praise from Spieth, who has had his share of short-game exhibitions.
Spieth had a remarkable bogey for the second straight day. After hitting over the cliff and into the ocean on No. 8 and then saving par from deep rough behind the green in the opening round, he was in real trouble at the par-4 second. From a fairway bunker, his ball hit a rake that wasn’t seen in the high grass. It bounced in the air and was buried in grass so thick Spieth could only hack out.
From 162 yards, he hit to 8 feet and made the putt to escape with bogey.
Koepka, meanwhile, was lurking. He was even for his round until reaching the front of the green on the par-5 sixth for a two-putt birdie, and then he went after a back pin on the 109-yard seventh hole for a 4-foot birdie.
“I feel great. I’m excited. I’ve got a chance. That’s all you can ask for,” Koepka said. “I just need to make a few putts. Sometimes the hole just needs to open up. If I can get off to a good start tomorrow, have that feeling where the hole’s opening up, it could be a fun round.”
Woods didn’t look as though he made much fun at all.
He talked about leaving the ball above the hole all round, though it really was the last two holes that irritated him so much. Five shots behind, just were he started, he closed with two bogeys for a 72. Woods came up short on the par-4 18th and hit a flop shot to about 20 feet, leading to bogey. He had a chance to save par after a drive into the bunker on No. 9, only to miss that.
It was a fitting end. He missed just about everything else in the second round.
“Not a very good finish,” he said, adding later that he was still in the game.
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This game. This rivalry. This season. It hasn’t meant this much in a long time.