UNIVERSITY PLACE, Wash. — Unbeaten as Ryder Cup teammates, Patrick Reed and Jordan Spieth now chase a U.S. Open title this weekend at Chambers Bay.
Spieth overcame a double bogey on an 18th hole that he called “the dumbest he has ever played” for a 3-under 67. Reed made only two pars over his final 12 holes, a wild ride that resembled putts on these heavily sloped greens, and had to settle for a 69.
They were tied for the lead on a day that included Jason Day collapsing to the ground because of vertigo, Tiger Woods posting the highest 36-hole score of his pro career and Rory McIlroy making everything from eagle to double bogey on a course that gave him nothing more than two more days to figure it out.
Dustin Johnson was in the mix for the longest time until making three bogeys over his last five holes for a 71. Johnson was one shot behind, along with Branden Grace of South Africa, who matched Spieth with a 67.
Sixteen players remained under par. Spieth is the only one with experience winning a major.
And it’s clear he’s not just satisfied with one.
The 21-year-old Texan surged into the lead with birdies, calmed himself after a double bogey at the turn, and then tended to Day on the par-3 ninth hole when the Australian crashed to the ground in a frightening moment. Day later was diagnosed with vertigo. Helped to his feet, he managed to finish the hole and shot 70 to wind up three shots behind. He was hopeful of playing Saturday.
Spieth also gathered himself and closed with a birdie to be the first one to reach 5-under 135.
Not since Woods in 2002 has anyone won the Masters and U.S. Open in the same year. Spieth still has a long way to go, and he realizes it will only get harder on a course that already is perplexing.
Reed has heard about the adage that par is always a good score at the U.S. Open. He opted for three birdies, an eagle and five bogeys over the final three hours, at times going from the lead to trailing but always in the mix.
Reed and Spieth were rookie teammates at Gleneagles last September, going 2-0-1 in their partnership, a rare bright spot in another American loss. That’s history. Now they’re chasing it individually, with loads of company.
Tony Finau, the powerful PGA Tour rookie making his major championship debut, let it rip on his way to a 68. He was in the group at 3-under 137 that included Joost Luiten of The Netherlands (69), Daniel Summerhays (67) and Ben Martin (70).
Woods, again, was never in the picture not the tournament, not on television.
Fox rarely showed him, except for a few shots, including the opening hole when Woods was so far left up a dune that he slipped and fell while trying to size up the shot.
He had a 76 and missed the cut for the second time in the last three majors.
His 36-hole total was 156, one worse than the 155 he had at the Phoenix Open. He has one more tournament, The Greenbrier Classic in two weeks, before going to St. Andrews for the British Open.
“Obviously, I need to get a little better for the British Open, and I’ll keep working at it,” Woods said.
Spieth can lean on his experience as a Masters champion, but this major is nothing like Augusta National. For starters, he had a five-shot lead going into the weekend at the Masters. And he is on a golf course where the greens are getting plenty of attention for being bumpy and difficult to make putts.
“It’s playing different,” Spieth said. “And I’m in a very different position. I’m not going to have a five-shot lead. So given it’s a U.S. Open, I imagine they’re going to try to bring us back to par. ... So I’ll draw some on Augusta, but at the same time, my patience level has to be even that much higher.”
His patience was tested, especially on the 18th. The tees were moved forward, making it play 514 yards. Some players who had been at Chambers Bay for the U.S. Amateur were concerned about the USGA using a forward tee and changing it to a par 4 in the middle of the U.S. Open because of an awkward landing area.
Spieth tried to go left and found a bunker. Then he tried to take enough club to get past the 10-foot deep bunker that was added only recently, caught the top of the lip and stayed in the rough.
“This is the dumbest hole I’ve ever played in my life,” he said before hitting a 4-iron toward the green. That found a bunker and he made double bogey. And then he pulled his tee shot to the left on the par-5 first hole (which was a par 4 on Thursday). His caddie, Michael Greller, helped calm him down.
“I was really frustrated walking off the tee box, and Michael did a great job coming in and telling me, `Sit back, you’re still very much in this tournament, don’t let this get to you,”’ Spieth said.
He made birdie to steady himself and finished with a birdie.
But the real test awaits.
“At Augusta, I was finding fairways, hitting it on the green and I was making everything,” he said. “That would be nice here if I could do that, but it’s a harder golf course than the Masters played this year.”