OAKMONT, Pa. – One year after Dustin Johnson let the U.S. Open slip away from him at Chambers Bay, he drove his way to the top of the leaderboard Friday at Oakmont.
Immaculate from tee-to-green, Johnson endured a marathon day of 36 holes with a game that makes him look tough to beat. He didn’t make a bogey in his opening round of 3-under 67, and he dropped only one shot in his 69 that ended just as the siren sounded to stop play because of darkness.
Johnson was at 4-under 136, two shots ahead of anyone else who completed the second round in the rain-delayed U.S. Open.
More than just his long ball, one of Johnson’s greatest assets is a short memory. He already has squandered chances in four majors, none more crushing than last year when he was a 12-foot eagle putt away from winning and three-putted to finish one behind Jordan Spieth.
Asked if he was motivated by Chambers Bay, Johnson deadpanned, “What happened last year?”
Andrew Landry had a much shorter day.
The 28-year-old qualifier only had to hit one shot Friday when he returned in the morning to make a 10-foot birdie putt for a 66 and the lead. It was the best opening round in 10 majors at Oakmont, beating a record shared by Ben Hogan and Tom Watson.
Landry also became the first player in 30 years to have the sole lead after his first U.S. Open round.
Three storm delays Thursday left a disjointed schedule and no clear picture of who’s in control. The nine players who completed the opening round Thursday, including 19-year-old Scottie Scheffler and his 69, had the entire day off Friday.
Those who had to return to finish the first round initially were given tee times deep into the evening until the USGA decided it best that everyone from that half of the field – including Spieth at 2 over – start Saturday morning.
Johnson went 27 holes without a bogey in a U.S. Open held on its toughest course.
The streak finally ended when he found a deep bunker left of the first fairway, advanced only 40 yards and narrowly missed a 20-foot par putt. He missed plenty of other birdie chances along the way, not alarming because Oakmont’s greens are difficult to putt.
Far more impressive was his accuracy.
Johnson missed only three fairways in the second round, and he has missed only five greens through two rounds. If the lead stands after the second round is over, it would match the lowest 36-hole score in a U.S. Open at Oakmont. And he still hasn’t made a birdie on a par 5 in two rounds.
“It was a long day today, but I felt like I played really solid all day for all 36 holes,” he said. “I drove it really well.”
Sergio Garcia, who also knows his share of heartache in the majors, stayed with Johnson as best he could. He made a tough par on No. 4 by playing his third shot from the fifth fairway. And he finished his round with a 50-foot par save for a 70.
Garcia was at 2-under 138, along with Scott Piercy, who also went 68-70.
“I’m too old for this,” the 36-year-old Spaniard said. “We know how difficult the U.S. Open is, and here at Oakmont even tougher.”
On the leaderboard, they were one shot behind Lee Westwood, who closed with two birdies in the morning for a 67.
“It was good, one of the best starts I’ve ever had,” Westwood said. “I felt confident out there and hit a lot of good shots. I was shaping it both ways, which you need to do in U.S. Opens to get at a lot of the flags.”
Daniel Summerhays, who got into the field as an alternate, had a tournament-best 65 and joined Andy Sullivan (68) at 1-under 139. Jim Furyk, a runner-up at Oakmont in the 2007 U.S. Open, also was at 1 under and faced the ninth hole Saturday morning to finish his round.
Spieth, who finished off a round of only one birdie for a 72, returned to Oakmont in the afternoon to putt. Rory McIlroy, who matched his worst score in a U.S. Open with a 77, came back to work on his swing.
On the course, other stars were struggling.
Jason Day, the No. 1 player in the world, opened with a 76 and was at 5 over with three holes remaining. Phil Mickelson was in danger of missing the cut for the second straight time at Oakmont. He was at 7 over with two holes remaining.
For Johnson, it’s time to put up his feet and contemplate another run at a major.
“He played awesome,” Garcia said. “It’s impressive. He drove the ball great, very far. I don’t think he missed many fairways at all. Out of 36 holes here at Oakmont with only one bogey, it shows you have to play really, really well. He’s going to be tough to beat, but I’ll give it a shot.”