AS IT STANDS -5 Bland, Henley; -4 Oosthuizen, Wolff; -3 Watson, Rahm; -2 Streelman, Hughes, Schauffele SELECTED OTHERS E DeChambeau, Morikawa, Thomas, Koepka; +1 McIlroy, Westwood; +2 MacIntyre, D. Johnson
Life's pretty good for Richard Bland right now.
Weeks after winning his first European Tour title at the 478th time of asking, the 48-year-old Englishman is tied for the 36-hole lead at the US Open.
The world No.115 carded a best-of-the-day four-under 71 to catapult himself to five-under and the top of the leaderboard at Torrey Pines. He’s joined there by three-time PGA Tour winner Russell Henley.
Hunting them down is a chasing pack comprised of some of the biggest names in the game. Jon Rahm, Louis Oosthuizen and Bryson DeChambeau, as well as Brooks Koepka, Collin Morikawa and Justin Thomas are all within five shots of Bland and Henley’s lead, setting up the prospect of a thrilling weekend.
However, despite the star-studded chasing pack and the unfamiliar position he finds himself in – this is only his fourth major championship appearance – Bland is rightly optimistic about his prospects.
“I was feeling pretty good about my game [coming in],” he said. “I've been driving the ball well for five or six weeks now, which is the cornerstone if you're going to put a fight up for a US Open.
“When I saw this place on Monday, it kind of set up to my eye. There's not too many sort of doglegs. It's all there just straight in front of me, and that's the kind of golf course I like. There's nothing kind of jumping out and grabbing you or anything like that.”
Win or lose, Bland is hopeful he can extend his ‘Indian Summer’ a little longer to realise a lifetime ambition.
“I love watching the Masters,” he said. “I've been fortunate enough to play there with a friend of mine. There's nothing like the back nine of a Masters.
“Hopefully if I can keep playing the way I'm playing, maybe next year I might be able to experience it, or the year after that would be unbelievable. That would be a proper dream come true.”
Most of the game’s biggest names made it safely through to the weekend. World No.12 Webb Simpson was the highest-ranked player to miss the cut, which fell at four-over.
Norway’s Viktor Hovland, meantime, withdrew after ten holes of his second round after being bothered by sand in his eyes.