Aberg leads by one and McKibbin sees weekend action at Pinehurst

Mark McGowan

Ludvig Åberg playing 18 in round two at Pinehurst (Photo by David Cannon/Getty Images)

Mark McGowan

Feature Interviews

Latest Stories

It was a rollercoaster ride we were hoping for, and Pinehurst No. 2 duly delivered on Friday at the U.S. Open as drama unfolded left, right and centre and an ice-cool Swede best handled the cauldron of the afternoon heat and searing pressure.

And there’s still two days to go!

Ludvig Åberg had yet to play in a major championship when he joined Viktor Hovland in dishing out a 9&7 trouncing of the world number one Scottie Scheffler and reigning PGA Champion Brooks Koepka at Marco Simone in Rome last September. He’d yet to play in a major championship when he rolled into Augusta and pushed the most dominant force in the game all the way. And he’d yet to play in a U.S. Open – dubbed the toughest test in golf – when he arrived in North Carolina, but on all stages, he looks to the manor born.

Twice on Friday afternoon he made it to -6, and twice the superbly setup golf course checked his run, but otherwise it’s been a virtually flawless display of patient golf and ice-cold execution. But at -5, he’s only got a one-shot lead and Bryson DeChambeau, Thomas Detry and Patrick Cantlay are hot on his tail with Rory McIlroy one shot further back.

“I think a US Open is supposed to be hard. It’s supposed to be tricky, and it’s supposed to challenge any aspect of your game and I feel like it’s really doing that,” the rookie pro said afterwards. “But I’ve been super fortunate with the way that things have turned out over the last couple days, and hopefully we’ll be able to keep it up … I think Augusta proved to me that I was able to be in that position, and it was more of a justification of like, yeah, you can actually be there and contend on a Sunday. Then obviously the golf course also played very difficult. It demanded a lot of patience and discipline just like this one does.

“I feel like those experiences that I had back in April, they were great. Hopefully we’ll draw some similarities between those. All we try to do is just hit the shots as good as we can and then see where that ends up.”

Where it’s ended for now is a final-group Saturday pairing with DeChambeau, while Cantlay and Detry will follow McIlroy and Tony Finau.

McIlroy had started the day tied with Cantlay after looking in complete control during his five-under opening round, but at a U.S. Open, everybody wobbles and if it turns out that Friday was his wobble, then limiting the damage to two strokes was as good as he could’ve asked for, and moving day is sure to live up to its name, one way or the other.

Tiger Woods, Max Homa, Viktor Hovland, Jason Day, Will Zalatoris, Dustin Johnson, Phil Mickelson and Justin Rose are just some of the names on the outside looking in after the 36-hole cut, but Tom McKibbin isn’t one of them.

Playing in his maiden major championship, the 21-year-old Holywood man may have struggled a little in his opening round, but the equation was simple on day two. Limit the damage to a stroke or two if you’re going to be around for the weekend, and at a course as challenging as Pinehurst – and one that was rapidly firming – that was no easy task.

As the day wore on, it became increasingly likely that +5 would be the number and it took him all of one hole in round two to find himself on that number. A birdie on the fifth was cancelled by a bogey on eight and when he dropped another shot at 12, it was strong odds on that he was going home with a great learning experience but not much else. Standing on the 18th tee, it had been reduced to ‘birdie or bust’.

His wedge to 16 feet was clutch, his putt was better still, and with the shackles somewhat removed and an early Saturday tee time, it’s possible to make great strides up the leaderboard and earn himself a healthy supply of world ranking and Race to Dubai points, along with a large paycheque.

Shane Lowry will be thinking along similar lines after he shot a one-over 71 in the early wave that ensured he couldn’t fully relax until it became certain that +5 was enough, but Seamus Power, who’d started the day at +1, stumbled to a second-round six-over to miss the cut by two, the same score as Tiger Woods who was potentially playing in his last U.S. Open.


Stay ahead of the game. Subscribe to our newsletter to get the latest Irish Golfer news straight to your inbox!

More News

Leave a comment

The reCAPTCHA verification period has expired. Please reload the page.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy & Terms of Service apply.