BROOKLINE — Members and employees of The Country Club have a saying they have used often this week: Francis is watching over us.
That would be Francis Ouimet, of course, the legendary Brookline amateur golfer who won the 1913 US Open at TCC. And the first two rounds of the US Open have been so perfect — really the first five days of the event, including practice rounds — that maybe it’s not so crazy to believe that Ouimet’s spirit is protecting this year’s championship.
The weather in Brookline has been stunning — blue skies and breezy temperatures. A nasty thunderstorm predicted for Friday afternoon did not materialize, and golfers were treated to pristine conditions.
“It was about as enjoyable as a US Open walk can be,” Jon Rahm said.
“Yeah, we got lucky,” playing partner Collin Morikawa added. “It was nice to see some decent weather kind of fall my way.”
The leaderboard entering Saturday’s third round is also a dream for golf fans, TV execs, and USGA officials alike.
Not only is it tight — 23 players within four shots — but it’s loaded with a mix of star players and long shots.
Eight of the top 10 golfers in the world rankings made the cut, with only Cameron Smith and Viktor Hovland not making the plus-3 cut line.
And the leaderboard is absolutely stacked, with three of the biggest names in golf sitting right at the top.
Morikawa, a two-time major winner and No. 7 in the world, shot a 4-under-par 66 in the afternoon wave to share the lead at 5 under.
Rahm, last year’s US Open winner and No. 2 in the world, shot a 3-under 67 and sits one shot back. So does Rory McIlroy, No. 3 in the world, whose roller-coaster day ended with him sitting near the top of the leaderboard.
Don’t forget world No. 1 and Masters champion Scottie Scheffler, just two shots back at 3 under after carding 67 and sinking an eagle chip on the par-5 14th hole.
New England native Keegan Bradley will keep repping the Bruins and Celtics on his golf spikes this weekend as he sits tied for 16th at 1 under.
Will Zalatoris (1 under), Xander Schauffele (1 under), Brooks Koepka (even par) and Hideki Matsuyama (even) will be playing late Saturday afternoon. Jordan Spieth (even) and Justin Thomas (1 over) are also in shouting distance.
Morikawa, who won the 2020 PGA Championsip and 2021 British Open, hopes to become the first second-round leader to win the US Open since Gary Woodland in 2019.
“It’s a major championship. No one has taken it deep so far and kind of run away,” Morikawa said. “But you know what? Right now my game feels really good. The last few days is a huge confidence booster for me heading into this weekend, and hopefully we can kind of make some separation.”
But sometimes it’s the long shots who make for the best stories, and a handful sit near the top of the leaderboard, too. Joel Dahmen, ranked No. 130 in the world, almost skipped his US Open qualifier two weeks ago, and still decided to go out drinking the night before his 7 a.m. tee time. But Dahmen played his way into the championship, and is tied with Morikawa for the lead after shooting 67-68. He could become the first qualifier to win the US Open since Lucas Glover in 2009 at Bethpage Black.
Hayden Buckley, ranked No. 259 in the world, is tied with Rahm, McIlroy, and others at 4 under. He’s playing in just his second major, having missed the cut at last year’s US Open.
There’s also Canadian Adam Hadwin, who only got into the field as an alternate after Paul Casey withdrew with a back injury. Hadwin led after the first round after shooting 66, and enters the weekend tied for 13th at 2 under.
Four amateurs also made the cut, including Travis Vick, who sits in a tie for 16th at 1 under. Vick was a three-sport star growing up in Houston whose baseball coaches were Andy Pettitte and Lance Berkman. Pettitte came to Brookline to watch Vick play about 15 holes on Thursday before having to catch a flight.
“He helps with mentality,” Vick said, via Golf Channel. “He knows a lot about golf, but it’s more from a big-league level, like, ‘This is what I’ve done. This is what I’ve tried. This is what I’ve experienced.’ Based on what he’s done in the game of baseball, him just having the thought of helping me is such an honor.”
The fans and execs couldn’t have asked for a better start to the US Open, and that surely includes PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan, as well. The top of the leaderboard is chock full of star players who have spurned the nine-figure offers of the LIV International Golf Series and have pledged to support the PGA Tour — McIlroy, Rahm, Morikawa, Spieth, Thomas, and others.
The LIV defectors, meanwhile, struggled on the course, and were quickly shuttled in and out of The Country Club. They weren’t included in the USGA’s “featured groups” on its streaming broadcast, and they were almost all placed in the early Friday morning wave, meaning they were well off the course by the time the national broadcast began.
The LIV golfers almost universally struggled. The first one doesn’t show up on the leaderboard until a tie for 31st that includes Dustin Johnson and Patrick Reed at 1 over. Bryson DeChambeau (2 over) and Richard Bland (2 -over) were the only other two LIV golfers to make the cut. The other 11 LIV golfers, including Phil Mickelson (11 over), Sergio Garcia (4 over) and Louis Oosthuizen (6 over), all were sent packing.
Most of the players in the field had not been to The Country Club before this week’s event, but many are falling in love with it. The dry conditions have made the fairways slick and the greens extra tricky, while the notoriously thick rough has forced golfers to consider shots they wouldn’t hit in any other tournament.
“The more I play it, the more I like it,” Rahm said. “It’s such a unique design to where you have options off the tee, and you can really choose whatever you want. And that’s why you have on the leaderboard so many players that hit it a bit of a difference in length off the tee.”
The players can feel the ghost of Ouimet lording over the course, too — not to mention the history made by Justin Leonard, Curtis Strange, Arnold Palmer, and many of the greats who have played here over the past 130 years.
“It’s true living history on this golf course,” Rahm said. “You’re taking steps on holes that some greats have in the past. When you get to 17 and you hear everything that’s happened on that hole, it’s very, very unique. It’s kind of obviously like going to Augusta . . . courses that have been hosting events for a long time and are part of this game.”
With cool temperatures expected this weekend and a leaderboard stacked with star players, more history will be made this weekend.
Ouimet will make sure of it.
Ben Volin can be reached at email@example.com.