The Masters champion Hideki Matsuyama returns to level par for the championship. Greenside at the 2nd in two, he clipped his third to four feet, then tidied up. He’ll be in a decent mood, having scrambled a fine par on the opening hole after hooking his drive into filth.
A fast start for Louis Oosthuizen. Birdie at 1, and now a 30-foot downhill birdie putt on 4. The 38-year-old South African, a runner-up in 2017 behind Justin Thomas at Quail Hollow, moves to -3.
Bryson’s drive at 2 found sand down the left. He lays up. No heroics … though his wedge in isn’t much good. Two putts for par shouldn’t be an issue, but he’s a good 25 feet from the flag. Up on 3, it’s a bogey for Hovland, whose drive found a penalty area. He’s -3, and Mickelson’s lead is now two again.
McIlroy can’t make his par putt, and he falls back to +3. He flings his ball away in theatrical disgust. Bogey for Justin Thomas, too, and he’s +4. Brooks, the third member of this stellar group, takes two putts for his par to remain a couple off the lead at -3.
McIlroy thins his sand shot through the back of the green. He gets a mouthful of sand as punishment. He’s now stuck up a grassy bank, with very little green to play with. He lobs on extremely aggressively, and is fortunate not to see his ball topple back off the front. He’ll have a 20-footer to save his par. What looked like a good birdie opportunity has turned to dust.
Birdie for Bryson DeChambeau at 1, though he follows that by hoicking his drive at 2 towards waste ground and a big tree down the left. Up the hole, Rory McIlroy sends his second into a greenside bunker, while Brooks Koepka, having sent a huge slice into the crowd from the tee, takes his medicine then sends his third over the flag to 12 feet. It’s fair to say everyone’s playing this hole differently at the minute.
What an astonishing shot by Viktor Hovland on the par-five 2nd! He creams a fairway wood over a tree from 227 yards to six feet! However it is his fourth shot, having got into all sorts of sandy bother from his drive. He makes the putt, and that’s one of the strangest pars you’ll see for a long while. He remains in second spot at -4.
An up-and-down start for the 2011 champ Keegan Bradley. Bogey at 10 followed by birdie at 11, and he remains at -3. A slow start for the reigning champion, too, as Collin Morikawa sends his second at 1 into a depression to the right of the green, then only just manages to lob up onto the putting surface. His 15-foot par putt bobbles, and so he drops back to -1.
Ian Poulter finishes his round with a par at 18. It’s been a miserable traipse home for the 45-year-old Englishman, who was six under for his round through 11 holes. Subsequent bogeys at 13, 14, 16 and 17 mean he’s signing for a 70. He’s level par going into the weekend, which isn’t bad at all, but could have been so much better. Meanwhile a three-putt bogey for Martin Laird at 12, and he slips out of second place to -3.
A perfect start for McIlroy! He sends his second at 1 pin high to ten feet, and rolls in the birdie putt. He’s +2. Par for Brooks Koepka, who remains at -3. And news of Viktor Hovland, in the group before these lads: an opening birdie, and he joins Martin Laird in second place.
-5: Mickelson (F)
-4: Laird (2*), Hovland (1)
-3: Grace (F), Bezuidenhout (F), Koepka (1), Wise
A second-round 74 for the world number one Dustin Johnson. He ends the second round at +6, despite eagle at 7 and birdie at the 9th, and is extremely unlikely to survive the cut. That’s currently predicted to fall at +3, and while it will most likely go out a further stroke – and possibly as far as +5, given the increasingly difficult conditions – it’s surely not going to save DJ. Incidentally, on the subject of the weather: the wind is up at Kiawah. On Sky, their excellent new pundit Brad Faxon reckons the second wave will average two or maybe even three more shots than the morning starters. Phil Mickelson is in very good nick right now.
Thanks Niall. Before we get properly involved with the second wave, a word about the Masters runner-up Will Zalatoris, who responded brilliantly to that mini-meltdown all around the 3rd green. The triple-bogey seven he ran up sent him crashing down towards the cut line at +3, but unlike – to pull one name from the ether – Ian Poulter, he closed out his round magnificently. Birdies at 7 and 9 sprung him back up to +1. He really is one cool cat.
Here comes Rory, teeing off at the first. It’s straight down the middle! And on that bombshell, I’ll hand back to your friend and mine, Scott Murray…
Martin Laird, outright leader for a brief spell yesterday, has made an excellent start today. He sends a long-range eagle putt close, and should be able to add a second straight birdie. That will put him on four-under, and alone in second place.
Ian Poulter is three-under for the day and well-placed on -1 overall, but something’s gone awry on the 17th, as we see his visor poking out from a crowd of spectators. He makes up for his errant approach shot with a fine recovery into the heart of the green. Poulter is still left with a horrible par putt into the wind, and comes up short.
Elsewhere, Spieth completes his second round with another missed half-chance at a birdie. He’ll be three over … no he won’t, as he fluffs the par putt, too. Yikes. He’s four over, and should still make the cut, but that will sting.
So, that cut line – it’s currently three-over-par, with plenty of big names already packing after their second rounds. Jason Day, Patrick Reed have finished five-over, while Sergio García (oh Sergio!) and Webb Simpson are running out of time. Tommy Fleetwood, seven over after his two rounds, is heading home.
Dustin Johnson has had a rough week so far, but he gives himself a glimmer of hope of making the cut with an exceptional eagle putt on the seventh, which trundles up hill and down dale before finding the cup. He moves to six over par, still an awful lot to do.
Gary Woodland briefly edged up to three-under, only to drop back on the 17th. One man who is in that big group tied for second is Cameron Tringale, who has made a fine start to his round, one under after three.
Here’s the latest leaderboard, with local start times for those not under way yet.
-5: Mickelson (F)
-3: Grace (F), Woodland (16*), Bezuidenhout (15), Streelman (15), Bradley (1.42pm), Hovland (1.47pm), Koepka (1.58pm), Wise (2.42pm)
-2: Conners (F), Poulter (15), Im (15), Tringale (1*), Laird (1.20pm), Morikawa (2.09pm)
Branden Grace follows up his double on the 17th with another bogey on the last, and drops back to the group, on and off the course, who are three under. That means Mickelson, already in the clubhouse, has a two shot lead! At the seventh, a rueful shake of the head from Jordan Spieth as he pushes a birdie chance wide. He stays on three over.
Thanks, Scott. Let’s check in with Phil Mickelson, the new clubhouse leader, who tells Sky that he feels more focused out on the course:
“Physically I’ve felt as good as ever, but mentally I haven’t felt present. I’ve been working on that, and it’s helped me make some of those shots [today]. It’s got more difficult as I’ve got older to stay focused. It’s like a muscle, you have to exercise your mind.”
Mickelson credits coffee, meditation and some high-intensity, shorter rounds with retaining the steely concentration we’ve seen today.
Now seems as good a time as any to nip off for an hour. I’ll leave you in the capable hands, and loving arms, of Niall McVeigh, and will see you again to see whether Rory McIlroy can pull something special out of the bag, 2012-style.
Grace can’t make the bogey putt, and Phil Mickelson, 50, is the sole leader of this major championship. A reminder that the oldest man to win a major was 48-year-old Julius Boros, in this tournament back in 1968. A long way to go, of course, but still. Look at this!
-5: Mickelson (F)
-4: Grace (17)
-3: Bezuidenhout (15), Streelman (15), Bradley, Hovlaned, Koepka, Wise
-2: Conners (F), Woodland (15*), Poulter (15), Im (15), Tringale (1*), Laird, Morikawa
Grace, hitting three from the dropzone, aims straight for the flag. He undercooks it, and breathes out hard with relief as the ball only just creeps over the drink. He’ll now have a good look at bogey from 10 feet, but you can be pretty sure that wasn’t the plan.
Mickelson could be leading this tournament very shortly! That’s because Grace has sent his tee shot at 17 carving off into the briny! He’ll be hitting three in from the drop zone, 140 yards away. Double bogey is most likely now. Meanwhile Streelman can’t get up and down from distance on 15, though he gives it a good go, his long par putt lipping out. He slips back to -3.
Phil Mickelson finds 9 in regulation. He’s not particularly close to the hole … but he rolls in the 25-footer and the crowd go wild! It’s his fifth birdie coming home; he’s played the front nine (his back nine today) in 31 strokes! It’s a 69 that gives him the early clubhouse lead at -5; he’s just one shot off Branden Grace’s championship lead! The 50-year-old living legend will have just about everyone in the USA cheering him on during Moving Day tomorrow! A three-putt bogey finish for his partner Padraig Harrington, though, and that’s a 73. He’s level par. Look at this, though!
-6: Grace (16)
-5: Mickelson (F)
Streelman slices horribly out of the native area on 15, and gets a big break, his ball squirting onto the fairway. He’ll still have work to do if he’s to escape with par, but at least he still has a chance. Meanwhile back on 14, Poulter lobs high onto the green from the bottom of that bank, but the spin stops his ball 15 feet short, and he doesn’t hit the par saver at all. Back-to-back bogeys that have taken a fair bit of wind out of his sail. He’s -2.
Bogey for Bezuidenhout at 14, who slips back to -3. Streelman sends a huge hook into the waste area to the left of 15. And Poulter’s hybrid gets him into more bother, this time at the par-three 14th, flying off the back of the green and down the huge slope. Good luck with that.
The overnight leader Corey Conners rattles in a 20-footer for birdie on 9. Having also birdied 7, he’s done extremely well to salvage that round. It’s a three-over 75, but given he was four over after his first six holes, that’s shown considerable moxie. He goes into the weekend at -2, not out of this at all, and that’ll make lunch taste a whole lot better.
Three birdies in a row for Gary Woodland! The latest, at 5, is his reward for splashing out from greenside sand. Having gone out in 39, that’s all the damage repaired, and he’s back to where he started, at -2 after yesterday’s fine 70. Meanwhile up on 8, a par for Phil Mickelson that’ll feel like a birdie, his tee shot having flown hysterically off to the bottom of a bank to the right of the green. He stays at -4 … but Ian Poulter slips back to -3, unable to make his 15-footer on 13. Bogey’s not the worst result after two poor shots back up the hole.
Trouble latest! Poulter doesn’t get lucky with his lie down the left of 13. The rough grabs his hosel and this second nearly disappears into thick oomska down the left. It stops just short of the hay … and he’s able to bump it onto the green, leaving himself a 15-foot chance to scramble a par. Meanwhile Grace only just finds the front of 15 in two. He leaves his first putt eight feet short … but rolls in the saver. Finally a nightmare for Will Zalatoris at 3. He sends his second down the bank to the right of the green, then chips over to the other side. A decent bump up that bank gives him the chance to limit the damage to bogey, but he misses the seven-footer, plus the one coming back, and from level par he’s now below the projected cut line at +3. Zalatoris has made major-championship golf look easy since announcing himself at the US Open last autumn; this might end up forming the first scar tissue of his career.
Mickelson finds the par-five 7th in two big crashes. He’s left with a long two putts for par, though. No matter. He judges a monster eagle effort almost perfectly, rolling it from 60-plus feet to tap-in distance. Another birdie, and the old boy grabs himself a share of second at -4!
Streelman lands his second at 13 right by the flag. Back-to-back birdies, then, and he joins Poulter and Bezuidenhout in second at -4. How much longer Poulter will be there is a moot point: he takes a hybrid off the 13th tee for safety, only to dump it in thick rough down the left. Much will depend on his lie.
Another birdie for Ortiz, this time at 13. He joins the pack at -3. Bezuidenhout sends a gentle fade into 13, setting himself up for a birdie chance from 15 feet. Mickelson crashes a big drive down the par-five 7th. After a slow mid-morning period, things are beginning to cook again at Kiawah.
Mickelson’s drive at 6 finds the rough down the right. But he lashes an iron into the centre of the green, leaving himself an uphill 20 footer for birdie. He can’t make it, but it’s a par that keeps him at -3. Kevin Streelman birdies 12 to join him there. And up on 14, the leader Branden Grace sends his tee shot down the swale to the right of the green, but he lobs a delicious wedge to kick-in distance, the ball screeching to a halt in spectacular style. He’ll remain at -6.
Branden Grace knocks his approach at 13 to four feet. He’s not missing the putt, and so extends his lead again to two strokes. Meanwhile Poulter walks in his birdie putt on 11, and that’s three in a row.
-6: Grace (13)
-4: Bezuidenhout (12), Poulter (11)
-3: Mickelson (14*), Bradley, Hovland, Koepka, Wise
Another birdie for Phil Mickelson! His third in four holes comes at the 5th, reward for a gentle draw sent into the 207-yard par-three. The 2005 champion now sits just a couple off the lead at -3. Meanwhile Ian Poulter makes his way up the par-five 11th in serene fashion, three straight strokes setting up a birdie chance from four feet.
This is beginning to go seriously wrong for Jordan Spieth. A third bogey in a row, this time at 1, and another reasonably short putt missed. He’s +3 now … and the projected cut is +2. Chances are that will go further out, but then so will Spieth’s score unless he turns this around quickly. He looks extremely frustrated. The career slam might have to wait another year.
Another birdie for Christiaan Bezuidenhout! He rattles in a 15-footer on the par-five 11th, and grabs second place for himself. He’s -4. Meanwhile Phil Mickelson moves to -2, having followed his birdie on 2 with a staunch par saver from 15 feet on 3, then another birdie at 4. The wind’s really picked up, to the point of players taking a bit longer over their putts on these baby-smooth paspalum greens.
Ian Poulter is channelling his 2012 self all right, having finished tied for third here that year. He whips his second at 10 pin high to 15 feet, and rolls in the putt. He’s five under for his round today, and two off the lead at -3. Carlos Ortiz is also on one hell of a roll. Birdies at 6, 7 and 9, and now he curls in a 40-foot left-to-right eagle putt on 11. The 30-year-old Mexican is right in this at -2!
-5: Grace (12)
-3: Bezuidenhout (10), Poulter (10), Bradley, Hovland, Koepka, Wise
-2: Werenski (14), Niemann (12), Harrington (12*), Ortiz (11), Streelman (10), Im (10), Davis (7*), Tringale, Laird, Morikawa
The leader Branden Grace sends his drive at 12 into the first cut down the left. He whips his second high into the air, landing it pin high. He’ll have a look at birdie from 15 feet, though that would be a bonus. Right now, with the wind getting up, players seem more than happy to secure their pars than worrying too much about launching a birdie blitz. Having said all that, here’s news of Joaquin Niemann, who having stumbled at the start of his round with double at 3 and another bogey at 5, has responded with birdies at 7, 8 and now 12 to catapult himself back to -2.
A few mistakes here and there. Grace doesn’t quite make the 11th in two with his 4-iron, and the subsequent chip is well short. There goes a chance for birdie, and he’s got to make do with par. He remains at -5. Streelman duffs a sand shot from the back of 10, and his 20-foot par putt stops a turn short. He slips to -2. Bezuidenhout shoves a straight 12-foot birdie putt right at 10 and stops at -3. Werenski misses left at 14 and can’t get up and down for par; he’s -2. And a three-putt bogey for Spieth at 18, and he slips to +2.
Speaking of backwards steps, here’s another one for the overnight leader Corey Conners. His drive at the short par-four 3rd finds the rough down the right, and he’s always fighting to regain position. Bogey, and he’s -1. But on 9, Ian Poulter rolls a 35-footer across the green for birdie, and he turns in 32! He’s in the top ten, albeit a top ten that contains 15 players.
-5: Grace (10)
-3: Werenski (13), Bezuidenhout (9), Streelman (9), Bradley, Hovland, Koepka, Wise
-2: Harrington (11*), Poulter (9), Im (9), Davis (6*), Tringale, Laird, Morikawa
Bogey for Jordan Spieth at 17. He can’t get up and down from the high bank to the side of the par-three, and slips back to +1. It’s been one step forward, another back for the three-time major winner all week. Birdie for Phil Mickelson at 2, and he’s in the red figures again at -1. Meanwhile a slight worry for the leader Branden Grace as he makes his way up 11; he’s feeling his back, and takes a minute or two to lie on the ground and perform a few restorative stretches. Happily he gets up again and looks sprightly enough.
The 42-year-old Kevin Streelman probably qualifies as a journeyman, certainly in major championship terms anyway. He’s made 25 starts in the big four tournaments, and failed to earn a top-ten finish in any of them. But he does have a couple of Tour wins, plus a second-place finish at the Players in 2013, so perhaps a high finish – or something even better? – is long overdue. He rolls a 20-footer across 9 to join the group tied for second at -3.
Branden Grace finds the bunker guarding the front left of 10. He splashes out crisply, the ball travelling some, but heading unerringly for the flagstick. It clatters and drops. Birdie! And all of a sudden, there’s a two-shot gap at the top of the leaderboard again, only with Grace in situ instead of the overnight leader Conners.
-5: Grace (10)
-3: Werenski (12), Bezuidenhout (9), Bradley, Hovland, Koepka, Wise
-2: Conners (11*), Streelman (8), Im (8), Davis (5*), Tringale, laird, Morikawa
Rahm can’t get up and down from the bank to the right of 18, and that’s a bogey. In the space of 20 minutes, a promising back nine has turned into a spirit-sapping 37. He’s +1 and, by suggesting the crowd should stop applauding him as he leaves the green, having misread a putt, is visibly on a self-defeating rolling boil.
Padraig Harrington isn’t the only European veteran sniffing around. Here’s 45-year-old Ian Poulter, following up birdie at 4 with a chip-in from sand at 7. It’s an eagle, and it whisks him up the standings to -1. He raised his finger in celebration a fair while before that dropped. A reminder that Poulter made five straight birdies at the start of his final round here in 2012, ending the week in a tie for third, albeit nine shots behind the winner Rory McIlroy.
Rahm, coming off the back of a double at 17 that dropped him back to level par, watches his approach at 18 bound down a swale to the right of the green. “Aw no way!” he yells, and momentarily considers breaking his iron in two. At the very last nanosecond, with the shaft beginning to bend, he thinks better of it. Meanwhile another birdie for Werenski, this time the reward for sinking a 20-footer at 12, and he joins the group a shot off Grace’s pace.