Golf: Rose fights off challenges to stay top at US Open

Justin Rose greeting spectators during the first round. PHOTO: AFP

PEBBLE BEACH, California (REUTERS) - Birdies were harder to come by at the US Open on Friday (June 14) but a rock steady Justin Rose had enough of them to take a two-shot clubhouse lead midway through the second round at a chilly Pebble Beach Golf Links.

Rose, the 2013 US Open champion, led by one shot overnight and added to his advantage with a grinding one-under 70 that featured three birdies offset by two bogeys to take control of the leaderboard at seven-under.

With no one in the early wave able to take a run at the 38-year-old Englishman, including two-time defending champion Brooks Koepka and Tiger Woods, it will be up to the later starters to see if they can knock Rose from top spot.

Plundered by the world's best on Thursday with 39 golfers getting under par, there appeared to be no record low scores, like Rose's 65, to be had from the scenic layout on Friday.

Rose, who matched the lowest round ever for a US Open played at Pebble Beach, was slow to heat up on an overcast morning as he opened with five straight pars before collecting his first birdie of the day at the par four 15th.

Playing the back nine first, Rose added another birdie at the 18th to open up a three-shot cushion.

But he would make a bogey-birdie start to his inward nine and drop another shot at the fourth before buckling down and closing out his round with five pars.

"I sort of feel like I left two or three out there," said Rose. "I just like my position, like the golf course, like the way I'm trending, still don't feel like I'm cooking.

"But I'm going to need to find that gear if I'm going to hoist some silverware."

South African Aaron Wise had an even par 71 to get into the clubhouse at five-under, joining the pack of Rickie Fowler, Xander Schauffele and South African Louis Oosthuizen, who were waiting to start their rounds.

Koepka turned in a 69 for a second straight day to leave him on four-under at the midway point, three behind Rose.

Attempting to become the first player in more than a century to sweep three consecutive US Opens, Koepka reeled off six consecutive pars before picking up his first birdie at the 16th and then immediately giving it back with a bogey at 17.

The big-hitting American made his move after the turn with back-to-back birdies at six and seven to stay in the hunt.

Woods began the day five off the pace but picked up what would be his only birdie at his second hole before stringing together 14 pars and closing out with back-to-back bogeys.

His one-over 72 left Woods at level par, seven shots off the pace and with work do if he is to contend for a 16th major.

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