U.S. Open Winners and Losers, Day 2: Hatton’s jokes, Tiger’s irons, Brooks, Rory, Scottie, more

Brooks Koepka suffered a triple-bogey setback on Friday at Pinehurst.

Brooks Koepka suffered a triple-bogey setback on Friday at Pinehurst.

Getty Images

We’re at the halfway mark of the 2024 U.S. Open and there’s much to celebrate: Clever golf shots, challenging conditions, a blue-chip leaderboard and much more.

But there’s also plenty to mourn; Friday night means time to say goodbye to more than half the field.

It’s the best of times and the worst of times. A tale of two Pinehursts. The contenders and the missed cutters. The winners and losers. And, of course, the fascinating gray area in between. Let’s get to a few of ’em.

(Sidenote: This whole exercise is, of course, ridiculous. There are no winners yet; this is halftime! Nor are there losers, not really, these fellas all played in the U.S. Open and were paid for the privilege, and none of ’em shot worse than 84. But let’s do it anyway.)


WHY: It’s possible that Sam Bairstow, a 25-year-old DP World Tour rookie, is just a very fast learner. Perhaps that would explain how the English lefty went from shooting the highest score in the first round of the U.S. Open — a 14-over 84 — to firing a three-under 67 on Day 2, a number that was bettered by just one player in the entire field.

Yes, you read that right. Bairstow went from the worst score on Thursday to the second-best score on Friday. Stats guru Justin Ray confirmed that his 17-shot improvement tied the largest round-over-round upgrade in the U.S. Open in at least the last 40 years. It still got him a missed cut. But there’s some triumph in it, too.


WHY: “Inopportune” and “triple bogey” may be redundant. Oh well. Sepp Straka pummeled the flagstick at No. 3 with his approach shot only to watch it rebound into a bunker. From there he ping-ponged around the green and made triple. But at least he got to respond with a hole-in-one just a few holes later at No. 9; the golf gods clearly felt bad.

That ace was five shots better than Taylor Pendrith scored at No. 9; the Canadian found the front bunker and then found a bunch of trouble en route to a triple-bogey 6 on his final hole of the day, dropping him from what would have been a tie for eighth to outside the top 20. That’s where Dustin Johnson made triple, too, effectively ending his chances at making the weekend.

And then there was Brooks Koepka, who was even par for the tournament — prime position — until he bogeyed No. 2 and then made a triple at No. 3 that included a putt into a bunker and then a three-putt from three feet. Not ideal; Koepka made the cut on the number but feels a long way from contention.


WHY: When I saw the below chip-in from Sahith Theegala it immediately jumped to the top of my list of recent favorite recent golf shots. The cleverness, the weirdness, the trajectory, the wild late break and the fact that it was coming as part of a Day 2 rally towards the cut line? Hell yeah.

Theegala went on to wrap up a second-round 68, a marked improvement over his opening 77 and just enough to make the weekend on the cut line at 5 over par.

What I didn’t realize is just how epically Theegala’s chip shot would be one-upped by Francesco Molinari, who came to No. 9 at 7 over par and with what DataGolf described as a 0.02 percent chance of making the cut. You already know what happened next:

“I don’t even know what to say. Just incredible,” Molinari said. The made cut is just his second of the season and marks his first major weekend since the 2022 Open; it’s safe to say he’ll get some satisfaction out of this one.


WHY: Nelly Korda was on an historic run of golf until she ran into a septuple bogey and a missed cut at Lancaster Country Club for the U.S. Women’s Open. Her male counterpart Scottie Scheffler arrived at Pinehurst as the favorite by far but posted a birdie-free second-round 74, a shocker for the guy who leads the PGA Tour in birdie average. He was outclassed by playing partners Rory McIlroy and Xander Schauffele and, for basically the first time all season, looked decidedly ordinary.

“I don’t think 5-over is going to get me into the weekend. But I’m proud of how I fought today,” Scheffler said post-round. Hopefully he didn’t gas up the jet; 5 over par was in fact the number he needed. The weekend remains.

(And I’m still strangely hesitant to count him out. A Saturday morning heater and 10 shots back could suddenly turn to five, and you combine that with some crispy afternoon conditions — why not?!)


WHY: Tyrrell Hatton sits at 1 under par at the halfway mark, leaving him in a comfortable tie for ninth. That meant he was relatively cheery post-round and opened up as much as I can remember in this sort of setting. A few selections:

On what it’s like inside his mind:

“Sort of internally screaming for the most part.”

On his potential advantage during frustrating weeks:

“It’s hard, and maybe everyone else getting a bit more frustrated is better suited for someone like me that is just constantly frustrated.”

On his on-course outbursts:

“It’s just a reaction. I honestly don’t know where — it’s not like I’m thinking, ‘I’ve hit a bad shot, I’m going to let it rip.’ It just comes out. I don’t know where from. But sometimes people find it amusing. Other times it’s maybe not amusing, and as I said, that’s probably more of the times when I think to myself, ‘yeah, I probably shouldn’t have said that.'”

On his happiest moment this week:

“Probably after the dessert that the chef has been doing this week in the house. I’m sharing with [Matt Fitzpatrick], and he always has a chef for the majors. Yeah, Sean is pretty handy where the desserts, so I’m in my happy place there.”


WHY: It made for terrific viewing but looked like miserable playing as Scottie Scheffler, Xander Schauffele and Rory McIlroy each found their way into the scrub left of the green on the par-5 fifth. Through two rounds, No. 5 is playing as the easiest hole on the course — but don’t tell that to the World No. 1, 2 and 3. Scheffler and Schauffele each needed multiple tries to escape, while McIlroy noted their struggles and saved himself with a safer option.


WHY: Rory McIlroy is very much in the mix at 3 under par, just two back of the lead. In part he credits his improved U.S. Open performance in recent years with embracing the tests — and the golf courses themselves.

Here’s what he said about No. 5:

“If you miss it left there at all, obviously you saw what Xander and Scottie did. After seeing their two attempts, I was pretty happy with mine just to get it over the other side of the green and get it up-and-down for 5.”

Asked to explain the differences between Pinehurst and a typical PGA Tour course, McIlroy had an even more comprehensive response:

“It just requires a lot more thought,” he said. “Even though I hit a great drive up the 8th hole, I had 151 adjusted to the hole. I’m trying to land it 146. I can’t land it 144 because it’s not going to get up there. I can’t land it 148 because it’s going to go over the back of the green. You just need to have a lot of precision. I feel like for the most part I’ve done that well this week. I’ve got the ball pin-high quite a lot, which is really important.

“I’m not trying to land the ball pin-high. You’re trying to hit it to a number — with a wedge, maybe five short of that, and then with a mid-iron you’re trying to land it 30 feet short of the pin to try to get it pin-high.”

That’s a helpful encapsulation of why Pinehurst has been compelling viewing as well as why it’ll get even more compelling if (as I’m hoping) they dial up the firmness for the weekend.


WHY: Viktor Hovland showed so much game at the PGA Championship it was reasonable to think he was back. Max Homa contended at the Masters and seemed to start a new chapter in his major championship journey. Bot entered this week with high hopes. Both missed the cut by one, and in opposite fashions: Homa played well on Thursday (71) before a disappointing Friday (75) while Hovland shot himself out of it Thursday (78) before signs of life on Friday (68). They ended up in the same place.


WHY: We may not have Scottie nor Tiger nor Max Viktor nor DJ nor Rahm. But take a look at the top of this leaderboard, and on this golf course, and it’s easy to get fired up. Rising star and megatalent Ludvig Aberg holds the halfway lead in his first major. Bryson DeChambeau is chasing his second U.S. Open as he leans into the role of showman. Patrick Cantlay is hunting his first major despite several years of top-tier play on the PGA Tour. Same with Tony Finau. And then there’s Rory McIlroy, whose quest for another major is about to hit its decade mark.


WHY: Nobody has hit their irons better than Tiger Woods in golf history; that’s where he’s historically separated himself from the field. So I was surprised to find that Woods’ worst statistical category at Pinehurst was his iron play. Worse than that, Woods has now gone six consecutive tournaments — and eight of his last nine — losing strokes to the field on approach. Flip back through the years and you’ll see just how much this run sticks out; as recently as 2020, his last semi-full season, Woods gained strokes on approach in every tournament.

Still, there’s something to be said for the eye test. In the wake of Woods’ missed cut I’ve read plenty of speculation about whether this would be the last time he teed it up in a U.S. Open and indeed whether he should keep putting himself through this. But I had the opposite reaction. I actually thought Woods looked pretty good. He moved better than he’s been moving. He hit his driver well and kept the ball in front of him. He made some putts, though not enough to make up for some random scoring leaks. But he hit a handful of spectacular iron shots, and he also hit a handful more that were one bounce or one ridge from being spectacular and instead turned disastrous, like on the par-3 9th, where what could have been a short birdie putt turned into a bogey. I typically cringe when a pro says they “couldn’t have shot a higher score” given how well they felt like they hit it, but for Woods on Friday it felt accurate. Brutal bounces and bad lipouts took him from inside the cut line to outside. I’d like to see more of Woods; I’d like to see him play his way into competitive form. That’s not likely. We’ll see him again at the Open Championship. After that?

“I’ll come back whenever I come back.”

There is good news though, gang: This column will come back tomorrow. See you then.

Dylan welcomes your comments at dylan_dethier@golf.com.

Dylan Dethier

Dylan Dethier

Golf.com Editor

Dylan Dethier is a senior writer for GOLF Magazine/GOLF.com. The Williamstown, Mass. native joined GOLF in 2017 after two years scuffling on the mini-tours. Dethier is a graduate of Williams College, where he majored in English, and he’s the author of 18 in America, which details the year he spent as an 18-year-old living from his car and playing a round of golf in every state.

Watch, play, win. Chirp Golf is your home for the best of real money Daily Fantasy Sports (DFS) and Free-To-Play games.

Watch, play, win

Chirp Golf is your home for the best of real money Daily Fantasy Sports (DFS) and Free-To-Play games. Featuring simple to play. easy to learn, and fun games. Chirp Golf has something for every golf fan.

Scan to Download:

Google Play Apple Store