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U.S. Open notebook: Summerhays sizzles, Landry plays it cool

OAKMONT, Pa. – Daniel Summerhays had played 68 rounds on the PGA Tour this season entering Friday, with his best score being a 65.

Matching that number during the 116th U.S. Open at venerable Oakmont Country Club is something nobody, Summerhays included, saw coming.

But that’s exactly what he was able to do during the second round.

“That was a round to remember,” Summerhays said. “I need to think a lot about that round, just sear it right into my memory.

“I think at any level and in any profession, you always go through times where you feel like you’re inadequate or, you know, you’re not good enough. That round today is definitely going to be one that I can push the replay button on at times where you don’t feel like you quite have it. That was really special, for sure.”

Summerhays jumped into a tie for seventh place at 1-under 139 after an opening-round 74. He closed his second round with a back-nine 30, showing no signs of fatigue on a 36-hole day – even if he was feeling it.

“I shouldn’t complain to my caddie, but that’s a lot of walking,” he said.

Summerhays said he shot a round of 60 in college, but considered Friday’s 65 to be better given the stage.

“I’m really enjoying this high right now,” he said. “I feel like I can get better at mitigating the lows. Really try and just believe in yourself a lot and take a lot of joy and pride in what you do good.”

Summerhays didn’t even officially have a spot in this week’s tournament until Monday. He made a 9-foot birdie putt Monday at the Columbus, Ohio sectional qualifier to get into a 6-for-5-spots playoff, but was the odd man out.

He made it into the field, though, as an alternate.

“Life will beat you up a lot,” he said. “I’m really soaking this in.”

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The current co-leader of the U.S. Open sounds like a guy who’s been there before.

Never mind that Andrew Landry is ranked 624th in the world, and is making his major championship debut.

“I think the U.S. Open just suits my game so well,” Landry said Friday after making a 10-foot birdie putt to finish off a round of 4-under 66. “I’m not a guy that’s going to go out and shoot 60 and 61 and 62. I’m just a consistent guy that’s going to shoot 68 and make a lot of pars.”

So much for any outward signs of nervousness. Landry’s Friday plans – “I’m going to go do some laundry and take a nap,” – sounded relaxed.

Landry was the definition of consistency last week in Memphis, when he finished tied for 41st in the FedEx St. Jude Classic, his best career finish in 11 PGA Tour starts. Over the first two rounds, he made 31 pars in 36 holes. He finished the tournament 1-over, and shot three rounds of even-par 70. That’s U.S. Open golf at its finest.

Landry had an unusual circumstance in which he returned Friday morning to play just one shot – his birdie putt on the ninth green, which was his final hole of the first round after starting on the back nine.

“I just kind of thought about it this morning a little bit,” he said. “I read the putt yesterday. I knew what it was doing. I knew it was a cup and a half out to the right, so no big break. It was a pretty easy putt to make if you get the speed right.”

By doing so, Landry became the first player to shoot 66 in the opening round of a U.S. Open at Oakmont – besting rounds of 67 by Ben Hogan in 1953 and Gary Player in 1973 (as well as Lee Westwood and Dustin Johnson this year). That’s pretty good company to keep.

“That’s pretty cool,” said Landry, doing his best to downplay things. “I told myself so many times over the years in my life, ‘If I get into the U.S. Open ... I’ll be able to make it.’ I’ll be able to do fine.”

So far, that’s been the truth.

Landry said he hit about 50 putts when he arrived Friday morning. Asked if he’s ever made a birdie like that and heard no applause – fans weren’t let in until 30 minutes after play had started – he quickly responded, “Yes, many times. It’s called the mini-tours.”

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Rory McIlroy has made a habit of feasting on soft conditions in his four major championship victories.

But Friday, it was the course that ate McIlroy’s lunch.

The No. 3 player in the world closed his rain-delayed opening 18 holes with bogeys on five of his last seven holes to shoot a round of 7-over 77, putting him 11 shots off the lead.

“When you’re not really in control of what you’re doing out there and struggling with your golf game, it was sort of just compounded by the fact that it was so stop and start,” he said. “I think for me, the toughest thing is just trying to stay positive and not get too down on myself.”

McIlory and his playing partners fed off each other in a negative way. Masters champion Danny Willett shot 5-over, while Rickie Fowler carded a 6-over 76 as the threesome was a combined 18-over.

“Honestly, I’ve been struggling with my swing,” McIlroy said. “Even the practice rounds a little bit. I know what I’m doing, but it’s hard to change it out there. It’s been hard to give it any sort of time this week to work on it.”

McIlroy’s biggest problem Thursday and early Friday was his inability to hit fairways. He hit just 5 of 14, despite using an iron off the first three tees – and missing every one of them.

“With the way the golf course is, with it being so soft, I might just go out there in the second round and hit a lot of drivers and try to be as aggressive as I possibly can be,” he said.

email: jskurski@buffnews.com