Golf: Kiwis in mix at storm-ravaged US Open

By Niall Anderson

Danny Lee, of New Zealand, hits his tee shot on the 16th hole during the first round of the U.S. Open golf championship. Photo / AP.
Danny Lee, of New Zealand, hits his tee shot on the 16th hole during the first round of the U.S. Open golf championship. Photo / AP.

New Zealand golfer Danny Lee has made another strong start at a major tournament after a solid opening round at the storm-ravaged US Open.

For the third consecutive major, Lee is inside the top 10 early in the piece, with a one-under 69 placing him in a tie for seventh in the challenging conditions at the Oakmont course.

The objective now for Lee is to avoid a mid-tournament slump, a problem which has dented his hopes of contending in prior majors. A second round 77 derailed his 2015 PGA Championship contention, while consecutive rounds of 74 and 79 saw him slide down the leaderboard at the 2016 Masters.

High scores are almost set to be a given as the tournament progresses, with just 13 players under par in a field disrupted by stoppages.

Players who have completed their two rounds can sit pretty in the knowledge that the tricky conditions are still to play havoc with the many players who haven't begun their second round, as three storm delays left a convoluted schedule with little clarity of who's in control.

Lee sits three shots off the pace set by Dustin Johnson, who has completed his second round, and rank outsider Andrew Landry, who posted the lowest opening round in Oakmont US Open history.

Johnson is out for redemption after letting the U.S. Open slip away last year, when he was a 12-foot eagle putt away from winning and three-putted to finish one behind Jordan Spieth.

Johnson has recorded 11 top ten major finishes without breaking through for a first major title - a theme which is prominent throughout the leaderboard. Englishman Lee Westwood (11 top five major finishes) sits in third at three-under, while Sergio Garcia (10 top five major results) is a further shot behind.

While Lee will be focusing his attention on those names atop of the leaderboard, fellow Kiwi Tim Wilkinson will be nervously monitoring the middle of the pack.

In his first career major tournament, Wilkinson shot a five-over par 75 in his second round to sit at six-over, one shot outside the projected cut line.

However, with the majority of the field yet to complete their second round, it is expected that the cut line will rise and Wilkinson should get to play the weekend.

Whether he will be joined by golf's biggest stars is yet to be decided, with Jason Day and Rory McIlroy in danger of missing the cut.

Day is currently right on the cut line at five-over with three holes to play in his second round, while McIlroy carded a horror first round 77 to require a bounce-back second round to make the weekend. He is joined at seven-over par by Phil Mickelson, while Rickie Fowler and Justin Rose (six over), Henrik Stenson (nine over) and Hideki Matsuyama (12 over) are other highly fancied names struggling to fire.

The big weekend for New Zealand golfers also includes Lydia Ko, who is in a share of 13th through two rounds of the Meijer LPGA Classic.

In her first tournament since her second place finish at the Women's PGA Championship, Ko has carded rounds of 67 and 68 to sit at seven-under, three shots off the lead held by American Lexi Thompson.

Ko has finished in the top 25 in her last 18 LPGA Tour events, dating back to August 2015.

- NZ Herald

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