After his four-over par opening round at the US Open, Kiwi golfer Ryan Fox was hopeful he had just played his worst round of the tournament.
"Everyone's going to have a bad day around here at some point and hopefully that was me today," he said.
Fox carded a disastrous 15-over 85 in his second round at Winged Foot, carding five bogeys and five double bogeys as his 19-over score was the fourth-worst at the major which saw many golfers struggle.
The conditions were so difficult that fellow Kiwi Danny Lee's five-over 75 only saw him drop 11 spots, making the cut at five-over, in a share of 33rd, nine shots off the lead held by Patrick Reed.
This was the Winged Foot everyone has heard about. This is the US Open everyone expected.
Reed answered the first big test when the wind arrived out of the north, bringing a little chill and a lot of trouble. He never got flustered by bogeys and made enough birdie putts and key saves for an even-par 70.
It felt just as rewarding as the 66 he shot in the opening round, and it gave him a one-shot lead over muscleman Bryson DeChambeau, who powered and putted his way to a 68.
The opening round featured soft greens, a few accessible pins and 21 rounds under par. The second round was the epitome of a major long known as the toughest test in golf.
Three players broke par. Nine others shot even par. Everyone else was hanging on for dear life. Only six players remained in red numbers.
"It's almost like they set it up to ease our way into it, and then showed us what it's supposed to really be like," Reed said.
Television showed his five birdies. What took him to the 36-hole lead at four-under was a collection of pars from bunkers and from thick grass just over the greens.
DeChambeau showed plenty of resiliency, too, bouncing back with birdies after all five of his bogeys and finishing the best round of the day with a pitching wedge on the downwind, 557-yard, par-five ninth to six feet for eagle.
Rafa Cabrera-Bello of Spain and Harris English each had a 70 and were at two-under. They were joined by Justin Thomas, who opened with a 65 and lost all those shots to par after 10 holes. He scratched out a 73 and is right in it. Jason Kokrak (71) was the only other player under par at one-under.
"This isn't exactly a place where you go out and try to shoot six or seven-under to catch up," Thomas said. "I'm not going to worry about what everyone else is doing because you could shoot 80 just as easily as you could shoot 68. I just need to stay focused, and most importantly, go home and get some rest. Because I'm pretty tired."
There's still 36 holes to go, and no indication that Winged Foot is going to get any easier.
"The rough is still really thick. I don't think they're planning on cutting it," Matthew Wolff said after salvaging a 74 that left him four shots behind. "The greens are only going to get firmer, and the scores are only going to get higher."
Tiger Woods is among those who won't be around to experience it. He had a pair of double bogeys at the end of the back nine, and two birdies over his last three holes gave him a 77. He missed the cut by four shots, the eighth time in his last 15 majors he won't be around for the weekend.
"It feels like the way the golf course is changing, is turning, that anybody who makes the cut has the opportunity to win this championship," Woods said. "I didn't get myself that opportunity."
Neither did Phil Mickelson, who had his highest 36-hole score in 29 appearances in the one major he hasn't won. Ditto for Jordan Spieth, whose 81 was his highest score in a major. PGA champion Collin Morikawa missed an eight-foot birdie putt on the final hole that cost him a chance to keep playing.
There were plenty of great rounds on such a demanding course, many of which fell apart at the end. Louis Oosthuizen was three-under in the morning when he finished bogey-bogey-double bogey for a 74. Xander Schauffele was three-under until he bogeyed three of his last five holes.
Rory McIlroy's problems started early. He was five-over through seven holes, including a birdie at the start, and shot 76 to fall seven shots behind. Dustin Johnson was bogey-free through 16 holes until a pair of bad tee shots led to bogey. He had a 70 and was in the group at three-over.
All of them still feel as though the U.S. Open is in sight.
"I'm confident now, after seeing what was out there this afternoon, over par will win this tournament," Adam Scott said a 74 left him nine shots back.
"The greens finally dried out. If there's any breeze, over par is winning."
It usually does at Winged Foot.
- With AP