Rory McIlroy, Phil Mickelson and Justin Rose were among a clutch of big-name golfers to miss the cut at the US Open yesterday as the feared Oakmont lay-out began to bite.
Five-time major winner Mickelson, who needs a US Open win to complete a career grand slam, parred the last two holes of his delayed second round yesterday morning to finish seven over par and thought he had done just enough to qualify for the last two rounds.
However, around six and a half hours later the cut eventually fell at six over par and meant the six-time runner-up will have to wait until the 2017 US Open at Erin Hills in Wisconsin to try to join Gene Sarazen, Ben Hogan, Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods in having won all four majors.
Speaking after his second round of 73, the 46-year-old said: “I actually thought I played really well, except I let four or five par putts kind of slide, and all of a sudden I’d be two over and right in it. You can’t do that here because you don’t have those birdie opportunities to offset it, offset those mistakes.
McIlroy veered from the sublime to the ridiculous to miss the halfway cut as Lee Westwood and Irishman Shane Lowry remained firmly in contention at Oakmont.
Despite getting off to a brilliant start, McIlroy could only add a second round of 71 to his opening 77 to miss his first cut in a major championship since the 2013 Open at Muirfield and end a run of nine straight top-25 finishes in the game’s biggest events.
In contrast, Lowry recovered from two early bogeys – the second caused when he called a penalty on himself – to shoot 70 and lie just two shots behind halfway leader Dustin Johnson, who had played 36 holes on Friday. And Westwood birdied the 16th and 18th to repair some of the damage inflicted by a run of six bogeys in the space of nine holes to be just a shot further back after a roller-coaster 72.
Scotland’s Russell Knox carded two bogeys and two birdies in an opening 70, and followed up with a 71 to sit on one over par, five shots behind leader Johnson.
Westwood was not the only Englishman in contention as Andy Sullivan and Lee Slattery survived a 36-hole marathon.
The havoc caused by thunder-storms on the opening day meant that after shooting 71 and 72 respectively in their delayed first round, Sullivan and Slattery had just an hour’s break before being sent out to play round two.
But neither were complaining after matching rounds of 68 left Sullivan three off the pace on one under par, with Slattery just a shot further back and dreaming of a shock major victory.
“I feel like I’m at a time in my life where I’ve been on tour for a long time and I’ve got to try to elevate myself up to another level, whether it’s this week, next week, whenever it is,” said the 37-year-old, who came through the 36-hole qualifier at Walton Heath last month.
“I feel I’ve got to win something a little bit bigger to keep on achieving my goals in life.
“Obviously I want to play a Ryder Cup and also just contend in bigger events and one day you never know. Like Ben Curtis did when he came over and played the British Open, you might just knock one of them off and it’s a life-changer.
“But you’ll never do it unless you’re in contention. So you’ve got to get yourself into contention and see how you do under the pressure.”
Sullivan felt being forced to play 36 holes in one day actually worked in his favour, the 30-year-old adding: “I played really well in the morning and I used that momentum.
“A lot of guys that played well on Thursday had a full day off and they’ve got to come back at it. I felt like I just used that momentum to my advantage and it worked well.”
Westwood, whose tie for second with Jordan Spieth in the Masters extended his unwanted record of most top-three finishes in major championships without a victory to nine, said: “I’ve been playing well and was really looking forward to coming back to Oakmont.”
Other big-name casualties yesterday included American Patrick Reed, and England’s Luke Donald and Paul Casey.