PEBBLE BEACH – We should have known it would be like this. Should have foreseen another U.S. Open at Pebble Beach would produce everything from eagles to quadruple-bogeys, would give us a leader board of the famous and the anxious, would be, well, very Open.
Halfway through this 110th Open, this fifth at Pebble, Graeme McDowell is leading, Ernie Els and Phil Mickelson are lurking, and 60-year-old Tom Watson is playing. You can’t ask for much more.
McDowell is a 30-year-old from Northern Ireland who shot a 3-under par 68 which ended with his a bogey at his final hole, nine, that didn’t so much ruin his round as allow more than a dozen other golfers to continue playing their rounds.
The U.S. Open cut includes everyone in the top 60 or within 10 shots of the leader. McDowell’s bogey at the final hole dropped his total from 4-under par to 3-under 139, meaning all those who shot 149 or below will play the final two rounds, a group including Watson, Sergio Garcia, Davis Love III and Steve Stricker.
“I’m somewhat sentimental about this place,’’ said Watson, when he was unsure about making the cut. He played Pebble as a Stanford student, and won at Pebble as a pro, twice in the Crosby Pro-Am and of course once in the 1982 U.S. Open.
What a fling for Watson. He lost in a playoff, at age 59, in last year’s British Open, made the cut in this year’s Masters now makes it in this year’s Open, second oldest behind Sam Snead, who did it at age 61 in 1973.
McDowell was a stand-in for Tiger Woods last December when Woods, because of injuries from that accident, couldn’t enter his own tournament, the Chevron World Challenge. En route from China, McDowell got off at L.A. International, agreed to play, finished second to Jim Furyk and gained enough points to become eligible for the Masters.
That’s the tournament Mickelson in April won for a third time. Mickelson, without a birdie here Thursday, had six birdies Friday. His 5-under 66 moved him to a total of 1-under 140, along with Els (68), Dustin Johnson and Ryo Ishikawa.
“The biggest thing is [Friday] I had enough birdie putts that were uphill,’’ said Mickelson. “I’m in a good spot. I don’t look at the leaderboard or the other players. I look at par. If you stay around par in a U.S. Open you have a good chance.’’
The eagle? A 3 Thursday on the par-5 14th. The quads, a 9 Friday on the same hole by Zach Johnson and an 8 on 13 by Retief Goosen.