Sixty-eight players made the U.S. Open cut, a group that excludes defending champion and tournament favorite Dustin Johnson, who played the first two rounds as if he wanted to spend more time with his family.
Jason Day and Rory McIlroy were packing their bags and catching early flights home, too.
As expected, Paul Casey, Tommy Fleetwood, Brian Harman and Brooks Koepka are hitched in a four-way tie for the lead heading into the weekend at Erin Hills in Wisconsin. It gets no more unpredictable than this. With the favorites wiped out and the underdogs on top, all 68 players are within striking distance of winning with 36 holes to go.
“It’s as wide open as anything has been, and it’s going to be really interesting,” Westgate golf oddsmaker Jeff Sherman said.
How many of the top 23 players on the leaderboard have won a major? Answer: Two. Sergio Garcia and Martin Kaymer.
The top 18 players on the leaderboard going into Saturday have combined for zero major wins. The past six majors featured first-time winners, including Garcia at the Masters in April.
Sherman (golfodds.com) posted adjusted odds following Friday’s second round. Casey and Rickie Fowler are 11-2 co-favorites.
Other notables near the top of the odds board: Koepka (13-2), Hideki Matsuyama (9-1), Fleetwood (12-1), J.B. Holmes (12-1), Harman (15-1), Jamie Lovemark (20-1), Brandt Snedeker (20-1), Garcia (25-1), Kaymer (30-1), Justin Thomas (40-1) and Jordan Spieth (50-1).
Fleetwood (125-1) and Harman (200-1) teed off Thursday as distant long shots. The leaders are at 7 under par, with Fowler, Holmes and Lovemark sitting one stroke back.
Matsuyama recovered from a first-round 74 by firing a 7-under 65 on Friday.
Spieth, the 2015 U.S. Open champion, is seven back heading into moving day, and there will be lots of movement on the scoreboard. Forty-two players are within six shots of the lead.
Steve Stricker, a 50-year-old local fan favorite from Edgerton, Wisconsin, barely survived the cut at 1 over par. In prop betting, Stricker was a minus-175 favorite to make the cut.
At this stage, it would not be surprising if a relative unknown such as Casey, Fleetwood or Lovemark emerge as the winner on Sunday afternoon. Casey, who has career top-10 finishes in all four majors, stayed in the lead despite carding a snowman (triple-bogey 8) on Friday.
Most of the talk going into the tournament favored the longest drivers at Erin Hills. But the longest driver (Johnson) is going home, and it’s a reminder that driving accuracy and putting still are the most important factors in golf.
As is often said, it’s tough to repeat. Johnson was aiming to match Curtis Strange, the last repeat U.S. Open winner in 1989. The prop on Johnson to miss the cut paid plus-500.
A traffic jam on the leaderboard indicates an 18-hole Monday playoff is a strong possibility. The U.S. Open has not needed a playoff since 2008, when Tiger Woods beat Rocco Mediate at Torrey Pines in San Diego.