SAN FRANCISCO - Back in Northern California and in contention for his second US Open title in three years, Graeme McDowell seemed to be a walking contradiction after shooting a second-round 72 at the Olympic Club Friday.
“My day was as equally unenjoyable as yesterday. It’s just tough to have fun out there, I’ve got to be honest with you,’’ McDowell said.
In the next breath, he said: “Very happy to be where I am. I think I played some really nice golf the last two days.’’
Let’s forgive McDowell, whose flip-flopping would make Mitt Romney or Glenn Ordway smile. Two days through the US Open wringer finds most players in desperate need of some mental downtime, no matter the score. And McDowell’s 141 total has him near the leaders. He trails Jim Furyk - who was in the same group the first two days - Tiger Woods, and David Toms by two shots.
McDowell’s only PGA Tour win came two years ago at the US Open, when he won by one shot at Pebble Beach, roughly 120 miles down the road in Monterey. The courses aren’t similar, but McDowell recognizes a few things.
“The similarity is the breeze coming in off the Pacific Ocean there that feels kind of the same kind of chill and has the same heaviness to it,’’ McDowell said. “Pebble, there might have been two or three different ways to play different holes. This golf course is pretty much one-dimensional. There’s a way, and that’s the way you’ve got to play it.’’
He’s done well so far, despite making bogey on three of his last four holes Friday. He might have been complaining about the lack of enjoyment, but he seemed pleased with his score, and thrilled by his position.
“If you had offered me 1 over par starting on the first tee yesterday, I would have probably snapped your arm off for it,’’ McDowell said. “I’ll take my chances from here. I’m in good shape.’’
By the rule
Unlike past US Opens, the US Golf Association has done away with the 10-shot rule, which allowed anyone within 10 strokes of the leader to make the cut. Now it’s just the low 60 and ties; 72 players were 8 over or better and have advanced. If the 10-shot rule was still in effect, 94 players would have made the cut.
The move was because the USGA prefers a one-tee start with twosomes on the weekend, and the possibility of a large number of players to make the cut with the 10-shot rule (108 made it in 1996, 83 at Pebble Beach two years ago) jeopardized that. Still, some players apparently were unaware of the change, despite it being listed on the application for entry and in the information packet each player received when they registered.
“We had been discussing this for many years,’’ said Mike Davis, the USGA’s executive director. “I think I’m correct in saying this: We haven’t had somebody win this US Open who has been a part of the 10-shot rule.’’
Nick Watney came back a little after an opening 69, shooting a 75 but delivering the line of the day, when asked what the biggest difference between his rounds was.
“I didn’t make an albatross,’’ Watney said, referring to the double eagle he carded Thursday at the par-5 17th, when he jarred a 5-iron from 190 yards. He made birdie there Friday, so he’s a combined 4 under par on one hole, and 8 over on the other 17.
“It’s kind of like a boxing match,’’ he said. “The course definitely won this round.’’
Cameron Wilson, an amateur from Rowayton, Conn., who attends nearby Stanford, missed the cut after shooting a pair of 77s. Instead of blaming a poor putter or faulty driver, Wilson targeted something else that evidently got in his way: Homework.
“I had some exams and a paper that I had to turn in Wednesday morning,’’ Wilson said.
Did he meet the deadline?
“Well, I did, but I think that those demands on my time didn’t let me prepare as well as I would have liked to.’’
Another Stanford man with a good story, Casey Martin, bogeyed his final hole and finished at 9 over, a total he knew would be too many to make the cut. Limping around, but again using a cart, just like he did here 14 years ago, Martin will take a lot of memories back to his real job, as Oregon’s golf coach.
“It’s wonderful competing,’’ Martin said. “I haven’t done it in so long, it really feels great to get out there and grind away.’’
PGA champion Keegan Bradley made the cut in his US Open debut, shooting his second straight 73 . . . Masters champion Bubba Watson, paired with Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson, rebounded nicely with a 71, but his 9 over total missed the cut by one . . . Mickelson birdied No. 18 to shoot 71, making the cut at 7 over . . . Steve Stricker had the low round of the day, shooting a 2-under 68 to improve on an opening 76 and get to 4 over . . . Unfamiliar with John Peterson, who had a 70 and is in the hunt, tied for fourth at 1 over? The 23-year-old from Fort Worth played at LSU and was the NCAA individual champion in 2011 . . . As promised, the USGA moved some tee markers up, including the 16th hole, which played 609 yards, up from 670. The course measured 7,011 yards in the second round, compared to 7,091 Thursday . . . Hunter Mahan was navigating his way smoothly through the difficult six-hole opening stretch, making four pars and a birdie on No. 5. But he needed five to get down from 20 yards on the sixth hole, made triple, and still shot 71. He’s 3 over . . . Dennis Miller, the Ohio club pro who became a YouTube sensation for his playoff putt in the sectional qualifier that got him in, shot 80-82.
Hunter Hamrick had the low round of the day, shooting a 3-under 67 that included a birdie on No. 18. Hamrick, in his pro debut after an All-America career at Alabama, will make it a lucrative one. He’s at 4 over . . . Andy Zhang, the 14-year-old who became the youngest player ever in a US Open, also missed the cut, shooting 79-78 . . . Olympic Club member Michael Allen - the oldest player in the field at 53 - will see two more rounds after starting 71-73. Fellow Champions Tour player Olin Browne (77-74) left early.