U.S. OPEN: Wild weekend ahead as stars pack leaderboard … Adam Hadwin stays in hunt

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BROOKLINE, Mass. — The golf world might be at war but the game’s best players are making sure the focus stays inside the ropes on Father’s Day weekend.

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Francis Ouimet’s Cinderella story in 1913 at The Country Club at Brookline is unlikely to be repeated with a U.S. Open leaderboard packed with the game’s brightest stars. At the top are Collin Morikawa and Joel Dahmen who have the lead at five-under par through 36 holes. Two-time major champion Morikawa shot a four-under 66 as he looks to add the third leg of the career grand slam to a resume that already includes a British Open and PGA Championship win.

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Despite Morikawa’s winning track record, the 25-year-old was a bit of a mystery before play began. In his pre-tournament press conference he explained that he had lost the ability to hit his go-to cut shot, and would be relying on a right-to-left ball flight this week. After Friday’s low round of the day, he was asked if there might be a future for his two-yard draw.

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“No, I think what it proves is just you can play this game with many shots,” he said. “But this week we’re just going to work with what we have, and right now it’s a little baby draw.”

One shot back at four-under is a group of five players headlined by defending champion Jon Rahm (67) and the rejuvenated Rory McIlroy (69).

“It’s true living history on this golf course, you’re taking steps on holes that some greats have in the past.” Rahm said. “I think it’s great for the game of golf that the highest ranked players and the best players are up there, especially in the tournament where truly the best player ends up winning.”

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McIlroy is coming off a Canadian Open win and seems to have no trouble carrying the weight of the PGA Tour on his shoulders while still playing great golf. The man who has become the flag-bearer for his tour in its fight against Greg Norman’s LIV Golf series is looking to end an eight-year major drought and claim his fifth major championship.

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“I have to go out with the mindset this week that I’m going to try to win my first again,” McIlroy said. “I’m playing as good a golf as I’ve played in a long time. … I’m in a good place. I’m really happy with where my game is at.”

Joining McIlroy and Rahm at four under are Aaron Wise (68), Hayden Buckley (68), and Beau Hossler (67).

One shot further back, at three-under, is a group of five players headlined by world No. 1 Scottie Scheffler.

First-round leader Adam Hadwin followed up Thursday’s four-under 66 with a two-over 72 and will head to the weekend firmly in the hunt at two under.

“I just didn’t strike it maybe as solidly as I did yesterday,” Hadwin said after his round. “It’s the U.S. Open I knew some struggles would happen eventually. It wasn’t going to be a breezy 66 every day.”

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After a late tee time on Thursday, followed by five interviews and a press conference, the Canadian said he didn’t sleep on his first major championship lead quite as well as he had hoped. The 34-year-old bogeyed three of his first seven holes on Friday, and after falling back to level par for the tournament he saved his second round with birdies at holes eight and nine, his last two of the day.

“A little bit off, just kind of kept plugging along waiting for some good things to happen and then a couple nice ones to finish,” he said.

Among the players joining Hadwin at two under are Sam Burns (67) and Matt Fitzpatrick (70), two popular pre-tournament picks.

“I think the golf course has been fantastic,” Burns said. “The setup has been great. I think it’s tough but it’s fair. You get rewarded when you hit good shots, and when you get out of position it’s really difficult. I think that’s how the U.S. Open should be.”

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Dustin Johnson (73) and Patrick Reed (71) lead the LIV golfers at one-over par.

Phil Mickelson (73) heard plenty of cheers and some jeers this week but missed the cut badly, finishing at 11 over.

“The fans here have always been terrific, and they really support all sports, and I love it when we bring golf here because they create a really special atmosphere,” Mickelson said.

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Through two rounds at Brookline it hasn’t been the torture test of some past U.S. Opens, but that doesn’t mean The Country Club isn’t delivering. The course Ouimet put on the map by winning this tournament as a 20-year-old amateur over 100 years ago might not have the world’s best curled up crying in the fairways, but it sure has made hitting them a priority. The greens don’t yet have players questioning the sanity and competence of the USGA, but the tiny targets and severe putting surfaces demand splendid calculations of speed and line for any type of success. So far the 122nd U.S. Open at this classic course is providing a classic test: Hit fairways, keep your approach shots below the hole, be conservative on the greens, wait for your chances.

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What the USGA has planned for the weekend is the million-dollar question.

“A bit of carnage,” Canadian Mackenzie Hughes guessed after his round. “That would be great because where I’m at I need some carnage. I need some guys to start coming back and I need to play great. I think anyone who is playing the weekend has a chance to win.”

Hughes shook off an opening double bogey at the par-4 10th hole to shoot a one-under round of 69, making four birdies along the way. He begins his weekend tied for 31st at one over.

“I was proud of the way I dug in there,” he said. “My back was against the wall and I played quite nicely the rest of the day.”

Hughes and Hadwin were the only two Canadians to make the cut. Corey Conners shot 71-73 to miss the three-over cut line by a single stroke. Nick Taylor and Ben Silverman finished at five-over, and Roger Sloan shot even par on Friday but finished six over.

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