Johnson in the frame as big names falter

OAKMONT (Pennsylvania) • The 116th US Open had not yet reached its halfway point on Friday, after thunderstorms wreaked havoc in the opening round, but Dustin Johnson emerged as the player to beat.

The American power hitter, seeking redemption for his agonising near-miss at Chambers Bay last year, has played the best golf of the week from tee to green, to hold the clubhouse lead after 36 holes with a four-under total of 136.

Also at four under was surprise first-round leader Andrew Landry, with American Scott Piercy (70) and Spaniard Sergio Garcia (70) two strokes behind the pair.

With the loose-limbed swagger of a gunslinger as he strides confidently down the fairways, Johnson has made the game look remarkably easy on one of the toughest courses in the world, making just one bogey in the first two rounds.

"He played awesome," said Garcia, who has played in Johnson's company at the Oakmont Country Club. "I also played with him last year the first two rounds (at Chambers Bay).

"He played really, really well today. 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."

Twelve months ago, Johnson's US Open dream became a nightmare with a three-putt on the final hole as he finished second, a stroke behind Jordan Spieth. But the world No. 6 has so far oozed confidence at Oakmont with rounds of 67 and 69 - which could have been three or four strokes better had he not missed several putts from 10 feet and in.

"I felt like I hit good putts," Johnson said. "It wasn't like my speed was bad. It's just tough.

"I felt like I left myself in good positions too. Just if you're just a hair off, it doesn't go in. So I felt like I was doing everything correct.

"They're going to go in eventually. So, you know, I'm happy with the way everything went today."

The new "Big Three" of golf lost some of their sheen in the first round.

World No. 1 Jason Day, seeking a second Major title after winning the PGA Championship last year, had a 76, which included a double-bogey six at the seventh where he needed three greenside bunker shots.

World No. 3 Rory McIlroy cut a disconsolate figure after his opening 77, which saw him bogey the last three holes on the resumption on Friday morning.

Defending champion and world No. 2 Spieth was in a much better frame of mind and his 72 left him handily placed just six shots off the lead.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE


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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on June 19, 2016, with the headline 'Johnson in the frame as big names falter'. Print Edition | Subscribe