2024 U.S Open - what we have learned through the first two rounds

Table Of Contents

Everything is finely poised as we head into the final two rounds of the 2024 U.S Open. Leading by one stroke is Swedish sensation Ludvig Aberg. However, fourteen players tee off today within four strokes of his lead including Rory McIlroy, Patrick Cantlay, Tony Finau and Bryson DeChambeau.

With a hugely exciting weekend in store, let’s review some of the things we have learnt through the first two days of play.

Pinehurst proves the ultimate test

Let’s get one thing straight, major championships are meant to be difficult. Whilst the U.S Open has often been able to stand apart from the three other majors in terms of overall difficulty, the way the players picked apart Valhalla at the PGA Championship would have made the organizers even more determined to ensure low scoring would be hard.

Often bordering on the line between hard and unfair, the set up at Pinehurst over the first two rounds has provided the very sternest of tests. 

By modern standards, the fairways are accessible but it’s on the greens where the fun really begins. With brutal run off areas on every hole, the pins have been strategically placed to maximize their damaging effect. Come up an inch short? Your ball is disappearing back down the slope. Approach the green from the wrong side? Forget about it.

There was no finer example of how a round can instantly change than at the par 5 fifth yesterday. After fantastic drives, both Rory McIlroy and Scottie Scheffler got their seconds shot wrong. With both players hitting the left hand side of the green, the ball would veer into the run off, taking their balls into the wasteland next to the green.

Scheffler would go first at trying to knock the ball close for his birdie but would end up flying the green, McIlroy would fare no better and would suffer an equal fate. With treacherous downhill putts awaiting them, Scheffler could only sign for 7, whilst McIlroy escaped with a par that would have felt like an eagle. 

As numerous players have expressed, there is simply no let up around Pinehurst. Every drive, iron, chip and putt requires huge levels of concentration and if a mistake is made it has the capabilities to end a tournament in a flash. 

With the greens set to remain firm and the pin positions tough, the physical and mental test is sure to continue through the last 36 holes. The player who ends up winning this tournament wouldn’t have just played the best golf but would have been rock solid mentally.

Pinehurst proves the ultimate test

Aberg defies lack of experience to lead at the halfway stage of a major for the first time in his career 

Having turned professional this time last year, Ludvig Aberg has enjoyed a sensational rise to the top of the game. Already a winner on both the DP World and PGA Tours, 2024 has been the first time that the hugely talented Swede has teed it up at the majors and he has shown few signs of nerves. 

Whilst he missed the cut at the PGA Championship, he finished in the top five when having his first crack at the Masters.

As his brilliant showing at the 2023 Ryder Cup demonstrated, Aberg seems completely at ease when out on the course. Undeterred by the chaos around him, he has been able to keep relaxed and completely unphased by the pressure. 

Since his college days, many experts within the game have believed that with a swing as smooth as silk, Aberg was destined for the very top. Few would have predicted his rise would have happened this fast and if he can win his first U.S Open at the first time of asking, Aberg could well be one of the best talents that European golf has ever produced. 

Rory McIlroy is in a great position to end ten year major drought

After finishing as the runner up at this tournament last year, Rory McIlroy clearly saves his best golf for the U.S Open.

Paired with Xander Schauffele and Scottie Scheffler it was McIlroy who easily played the best of the trio, finishing his first 36 holes at -3, the four time major winner finds himself just two off the lead held by Ludvig Aberg.

What has often been the common theme in the ten year drought that McIlroy has experienced in the majors is that too often he has made untimely mistakes which have ended up costing him deer. 

With Pinehurst set up for maximum damage, many McIlroy fans were fearful of his chances this week, but through the first two rounds he has been playing well within himself.

Finding plenty of fairways, his approach game has been consistent and he has been completely unnerving with the putter. He looks comfortable around the course and after emerging from his marquee group with the best score, he will hope to move into further contention with another solid showing today. 

Rory McIlroy is in a great position to end ten year major drought

Patrick Cantlay will hope to emulate great friend Xander Schauffele and win first major 

With his great friend Xander Schauffele able to win his first major at last month’s PGA Championship, Patrick Cantlay is now near the top of the list when it comes to the best players not to have won a major. 

Cantlay’s often dour demeanor can often overshadow what a good player he is. Although he is yet to win this year on Tour, you don’t win multiple titles and play in numerous Ryder Cups without being one of the best players in the game.

The leader after the first round, few believed that he would stay there due to him going out in yesterday’s afternoon round. Those who started late yesterday, easily experienced the worst of the conditions, with the greens exceptionally slick and firm, Cantlay did a wonderful job to stay within one shot of the top of the leaderboard. 

Pinehurst is a thinking man’s course. Every hole needs to be detailed and every shot heavily considered. Cantlay is the most methodical player on Tour and it isn’t surprising that he has found Pinehurst to his liking.

With the test set to be even more extreme over the weekend, discount Cantlay chances at your peril. 

Many of the world’s best players miss cut

With Pinehurst gritting its teeth through the last two days, it isn’t surprising that some of the game’s biggest names failed to fire and are already on their way home. 

In terms of ranking Max Homa is the most notable. 

A multiple winner on the PGA Tour, Homa managed to finish in the top five at the Masters but his journey to land his first major title will continue after a desperately poor second round left him outside the cut line.

Dazed by the tough setup, he will hope to bounce back at next month’s Open.

The future of Tiger Woods remains very much up in the air. After a bright start to the tournament where he led after an opening hole birdie, Woods was unable to last the pace and would go on to miss the cut by two strokes.

Whilst nobody can deny that Woods seems to be moving much better, the fact he can’t play in many tournaments is what often costs him when it comes to the majors. 

Unable to maintain his levels through the entirety of a round, Woods is no fool and after missing this cut, reflected that he might not tee it up at a U.S Open again. 

There are no doubts that Woods believes that he can still compete at the very highest levels, but until he can play more tournaments any hopes he has of winning major number 16 seem to be far off. 

Other notables to have missed the cut were Rickie Fowler, Robert MacIntyre, Justin Thomas, Will Zalatoris, Phil Mickelson and Jason Day.