Jason Dufner threatened to become the first man in history to score 62 in a Major, before settling for a 63 that was enough to give him a two stroke lead into the weekend.
Dufner had the oaks swaying in reverence with an eagle from the fairway as he walked majestically through the Oakhill Country Club, breaking the course record set by Ben Hogan (1942), Curtis Strange (1989) and Webb Simpson.
Incidentally Simpson’s 64 emulated the earlier mark, just a few hours before Dufner erased it in the same round. Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson had another non-descript day at work, leaving them with plenty to do to just to catch up with the surging tide in front over the weekend.
The day belonged to the languid Dufner, whose birdie effort at the final hole almost created history before stopping painfully short of the pin. No man has ever made 62 at a Major, but Dufner became the 24th golfer to shoot 63 at a Major. The man, who made slouching fashionable when his inert posture inside a classroom flared on the internet, was his usual calm self as he went about breaking records on a rather benign course.
Aided by the rains in the morning, Dufner indulged himself with five birdies and an eagle as he marched to a two stroke lead over Adam Scott, Jim Furyk and Matt Kuchar. “I’ve got more experience now in these majors,” reflected Dufner.
“I’ve won some events and been close to winning some others. That will help. I’m looking forward to closing one of these out. I’m excited to be in the lead.”
The big turnaround came from Simpson, who was five over par at one stage on Thursday. Simpson was seven under after making four birdies in six holes on the back nine, but gave a stroke back to end with an impressive 64. The stellar effort in the second round left Simpson at four under through two rounds and inside the top ten.
Scott survived a difficult patch of play to make 68 and stay within a couple of good slings from Dufner. Furyk matched the effort to also stay in touch with the man on top. Joining them in the chase was Kuchar, who followed his good effort (67) on Thursday with an even better 66 to remain in contention. Only a bogey at the final hole dampened his round that contained five birdies.
Woods toggled between birdie and bogey, settling for another uninspiring even par round of 70 to fall ten strokes off the pace. Open champion Mickelson fared no better, matching his first round effort of 71 to park his caravan eleven strokes behind the leaders.
“Obviously, I’m going to have to put together a really good weekend,” said Woods, who has just a single round in the 60s at the Majors this year. “This golf course is pretty soft. It’s definitely gettable. Got to hit the ball in play and keep the ball near the hole so I can be aggressive with my putts.”
-9: J Dufner (US)
-7: A Scott (Aus), J Furyk (US), M Kuchar (US)
-6: J Rose (Eng), H Stenson (Swe)
-5: R Garrigus (US), S Stricker (US)
Selected: -1: L Westwood (Eng), P Casey (Eng), G McDowell (NI)
Even: R McIlroy (NI)
+1: T Woods (US)
+2: P Mickelson (US)