BROOKLINE, Mass. — The cream has risen to the top at the 122nd U.S. Open.
Buckle up golf fans, this U.S. Open is heading for a potentially epic weekend at The Country Club.
As the sun set on the iconic venue a few miles west of downtown Boston, Collin Morikawa held a share of the 36-hole lead at 5-under along with journeyman Joel Dahmen and is trailed by, among others, Jon Rahm at 4-under and Scottie Scheffler at 3-under.
Rory McIlroy, a four-time major championship winner who’s seeking his first major in eight years, also is tied for second at 4-under along with qualifier Hayden Buckley, who has missed six of his last seven cuts, Aaron Wise and Beau Hossler, who holed out a chip on 18 to get to 4-under.
For those scoring at home, as third-round play begins Thursday, the reigning British Open champion (Morikawa) has the lead and is one shot ahead of the reigning U.S. Open champion (Rahm) and two shots ahead of the reigning Masters champion (Scheffler).
To ask for a more compelling leaderboard would be greedy.
Morikawa, the 2020 PGA Champion and 2021 British Open champion, shot a 4-under 66 on Friday, which was the lowest round of the day and tied the lowest round of the tournament.
Rahm, who shot 67 Friday, is tied with little-known Buckley (two 68s) and McIlroy, who shot 69 Friday, at one shot off the lead.
Scheffler (67 on Friday) is tied with Nick Hardy, Patrick Rodgers, Matthew NeSmith and Brian Harman at 3-under and two shots behind Morikawa.
“It’s great,’’ Rahm said of the leaderboard crowded with stars of the game. “I think it’s a testament to the health and the state of this game. It’s pretty amazing to see Rory back … [though] it’s not like he ever went anywhere. But playing back-to-back weeks [he won last week in Canada] and playing at the level he can.
“Obviously, Scottie doing what he’s been doing all year, Collin doing what he always does, myself doing what I always try to do, as well. It’s fun for all of us because we all want to compete against the best and beat the best.
Said Scheffler of the stacked leaderboard: “I’m pretty familiar with most of the guys. The PGA Tour is very deep and extremely talented.”
McIlroy, addressing the board, said, “It’s why we play. You want to go up against the best to try to bring the best out of yourself, and to see Collin and Jon and Scottie and Sam [Burns] up there and whoever else, that’s what major championship golf is all about. That’s what competition is all about.
“That’s competition, and that’s at the heart of this game. I’m excited to be in that mix going into the weekend.’’
Said Morikawa: “It’s a major championship, it’s the U.S. Open, no one has taken it deep so far and kind of run away.’’
When it was pointed out to Morikawa that a U.S. Open win would leave him on Masters victory away from completing a career Grand Slam, he responded, “Never really thought about it. I just wanted to win golf tournaments, win majors, and compete against the best in the world, and luckily, I’ve been able to do that. I can’t really talk about what it would be like to win this one. I’ve got to focus on [Saturday]. I’ve just got to figure out a way to focus a little bit deeper and really get dialed in for the next 36.’’
As for Scheffler, his ascent to No. 1 in the world has been dizzying — even if he doesn’t make a lot of headlines.
“I feel like I’m kind of an under-the-radar person,’’ Scheffler said. “I don’t really feel like there’s much chatter going around with me. Rory won last week, Tiger [Woods] was at the PGA. I’ve been No. 1 in the world for a while now, and it doesn’t really feel like it, so I kind of like just under the radar. I can show up and do my thing and then go home and rest.
“I like winning tournaments. I like winning majors. Being able to play against the best golfers in the world, however it is and whatever tournament it is, it’s always fun.’’
Scheffler said he has no problem with his peers grabbing the headlines.
“Those guys have been on the PGA Tour for a long time,’’ he said. “Justin Thomas has won, like, 13 times and two majors, Rory has won four majors and, like, 21 times on the PGA Tour. Those guys are definitely going to be more the spokespersons and take the limelight because they deserve it. They’ve won so many golf tournaments.
“I kind of like flying under the radar. For me, it makes things a lot simpler.’’