OAKMONT, Pa.—Dustin Johnson covered a lot of ground, did a lot of work and squeezed out the last ounce of daylight to wind up at the same place as Andrew Landry, whose workday consisted of one putt before empty stands early Friday morning.
Credit Johnson with being well ahead, even though both are 4 under par at this reshuffled U.S. Open. Johnson played 36 holes at Oakmont Country Club, making his last par just before play was suspended because of darkness on Friday, as opposed to the 18-hole round that Landry completed with one stroke at 7:30 a.m., before the grounds had been dried enough to allow in spectators.
“I played really well all day,” said Johnson, who had rounds of 67 and 69 in an extra-long grueling test on a demanding course. Like everyone else scheduled for the Thursday afternoon wave, he never hit a shot in the storm-plagued Day One of the Open. He played his first round Friday morning and the second in the afternoon and gloaming.
His long drives (average 319 yards) and approach shots (he hit 31 greens in regulation) were impeccable as he became only the second player ever—after Hale Irwin—to have shot the first two rounds in the 60s at Oakmont. If he had putted just a little better (he had 32 putts in the first round, 33 in the second), he would have surpassed the 65 that Daniel Summerhays shot in his second round.
Putting meant perfection on Friday for Landry. He was 1-for-1. Play had been halted because of thunderstorms Thursday with Landry, a PGA Tour rookie who never had played in a U.S. Open before, facing a 10-footer on his final hole. He returned to the course early Friday without his golf bag or caddie and made the putt to complete his 66, the best opening-round score ever at Oakmont.
But it will be his turn to play 36 holes on Saturday, with his second round scheduled to begin at 7:11 a.m. He knew he had to conserve his energy for the ordeal, so he said his only plan for the remainder of Friday was, “I’m going to do some laundry and take a nap.” (He also returned to practice and seemed to have shaved.)
When he was asked if he ever had experienced the eerie feeling of sinking a putt to complete silence, Landry said, “Yes, many times. It’s called the mini-tours.”
Actually, the most benign part of Friday was the time after the traditional dinner hour. In the twilight, Oakmont was calm and yielding. World No. 1 Jason Day, who had appeared perilously close to the cut line, rallied and made it to 5 over with three holes to play.
Johnson kept shining, as he had done earlier. He made only one bogey, on No. 1 in the afternoon round, his 28th hole of the day. He birdied the par-3 sixth and saved three pars before heading into the clubhouse.
“He played awesome. It’s impressive. He drove the ball great, very far. I don’t think he missed many fairways at all,” said Sergio Garcia, who was in the same threesome and finished with his own flourish—having punched out of a fescue-covered ditch on his last hole and sank a 50-footer for par just before the horn sounded. “He’s going to be tough to beat, but I’ll give it a shot.”
Johnson said, “It wasn’t like I hit bad putts or my speed was bad. It’s just tough. I was hitting all my putts where I wanted to. They’re going to go in eventually. But I made some nice putts, too.”
He was both drained and in good position. Of course, he has been on top in majors before and never has won one. He had a putt to win on the final green last year and wound up missing and three-putted for a loss. Naturally, he was asked about that on Friday.
“What happened last year?” he said, deadpan. That seemed like ages ago Friday night.