ARDMORE, Pa. — Billy Horschel hit all 18 greens in regulation. Hard to think of a better way to climb to the top of the leaderboard at the U.S. Open.
He shot 3-under 67, sufficiently managing the nasty rough and hard-to-read greens to become the clubhouse leader late in the second round Friday at the Merion Golf Club.
Horschel was 1 under with a 139 total, posting one of the few red numbers on a trying day for much of the field. He missed the cut in his only previous U.S. Open, in 2006, but recently won for the first time on the PGA Tour at the Zurich Classic.
“I’ve acquired some patience, not as much as I wish I had,” said the 26-yeaar-old from Jacksonville Beach, Fla. “But I just think that the older I get, the more mature I get on the golf course, the more understanding that if I do have a bad stretch of holes, it’s not that I don’t hit the panic button, I just don’t press right away.”
Phil Mickelson held the solo lead for much of the afternoon, but he missed birdie chances during a streak of 10 consecutive pars. He then 3-putted No. 12 for a bogey and dropped another stroke when he put his tee shot in the sand on the short par-3 13th, the easiest hole on the course.
Seconds later, Steve Stricker, playing in Mickelson’s group, sank a birdie putt from about 15 feet to move into a tie with Horschel for the lead. Justin Rose was also at 1 under on the back nine.
Hoping to build on his own 67 from Thursday, Mickelson put his first shot in a bunker and 3-putted the first hole for a bogey. He was in rough and sand at No. 2, but he recovered to start the run of pars, avoiding even the distraction of a groundhog — a relative of Punxsutawney Phil? — who made a mad dash across the fairway at No. 6. Mickelson lipped out a 4-foot birdie putt at No. 8.