US Open: Rickie Fowler stars again to take solo lead at halfway stage

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Rickie Fowler will take a one-shot solo lead into the weekend at the US Open following another strong performance at Los Angeles Country Club on Friday.

After he and Xander Schauffele broke the record for the lowest single round score ever shot at the major on Thursday, an eight-under 62, Fowler shot 68 in the second round to pull away from his compatriot.

The 34-year-old, chasing his first major title, holds a one stroke advantage over American Wyndham Clark, who starred yet again to leapfrog tied-third Schauffele into solo second.

Ten-under overall at the halfway stage, Fowler equaled the record for the lowest opening 36-hole score at the tournament, matching Martin Kaymer’s effort in 2014.

It was a rollercoaster round for the world No. 45, who raced out of the blocks with three consecutive birdies. Yet after shooting just two bogeys in his opening round, the five-time PGA Tour winner shot six on Friday, including four across a seven-hole stretch after the turn.

“Being in the lead is nice, but it really means nothing right now,” Fowler told reporters.

“I’m looking forward to continuing to challenge myself and go out there and try and execute the best I can.”

Clark, after missing the cut in both of his previous starts at the major, followed up his opening round 64 with a 67, shooting just one bogey in a composed display to soar into the weekend.

The 29-year-old is comfortably on course to beat his best-ever major finish, a top-75 finish at the PGA Championship in 2021.

McIlroy keeps major dream alive

An electric finish from Rory McIlroy kept the Northern Irishman within striking distance of ending his nine-year wait for a fifth career major.

Two-over par at the turn, the 2011 champion rattled off six birdies across his last nine holes to finish three-under and head into the weekend two shots behind Fowler and tied with Schauffele, who shot an even-par 70.

“No one wants me to win another major more than I do. The desire is obviously there,” McIlroy told reporters.

“I feel like I’ve showed a lot of resilience in my career, a lot of ups and downs, and I keep coming back. And whether that means that I get rewarded or I get punched in the gut or whatever it is, I’ll always keep coming back.”

McIlroy was a whisker away from a walk-off ace when, having started from the 10th hole, his 9th tee shot trickled agonizingly past the cup.

A few inches to the left and the 34-year-old would have become already the fourth player to hit a hole-in-one at the tournament, after defending champion Matt Fitzpatrick made it a hat-trick earlier in the second round.

The defending champion joined France’s Matthieu Pavon and American Sam Burns in finding the 15th hole in one swing, even if he didn’t immediately realize it.

The Englishman struggled to continue the momentum of the first hole-in-one of his PGA Tour career however, double bogeying two holes later and finishing the day at one-over par overall.

“I feel like if I can get the driver going I can shoot a really good score, but could not drive it worse at the minute,” Fitzpatrick told reporters.

Mickelson, Spieth and Thomas crash out

American Harris English sits alone in fifth at seven-under overall, one shot ahead of Australia’s Min Woo Lee and compatriot Dustin Johnson, who rebounded well from a disastrous quadruple bogey at the second hole to card even-par for the round.

“Definitely didn’t get the day started off how I envisioned it starting today,” Johnson told reporters.

“But to battle back and get it back to even par for the day and 6-under for the tournament, still right in the mix going into the weekend, definitely proud of the way I came back and finished off the round.”

Six-time major champion Phil Mickelson and former US Open champion Jordan Spieth headlined a host of big names that failed to progress to the weekend, with the cut line falling at two-over par.

Yet while both only missed out by a single stroke, two-time major winner Justin Thomas endured a truly torrid two days in California, shooting 73 and 81 to finish 14-over par, that tied for the tied-fourth worst score of the 156-player field.

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