Merion Golf Club proved to be more than a worthy U.S. Open test on Friday.
It's safe to say things didn't go quite as expected Friday at the storied Merion Golf Club, which in and of itself might be the most impressive surprise of the 2013 U.S. Open to date.
Once considered too short to host the U.S. Open, Merion tested the mettle of every golfer that challenged it during the second round and took many of them out to the woodshed. Stars like Phil Mickelson, Tiger Woods, Graeme McDowell and Lee Westwood struggled at times, or over the course of the entire round.
Pleasant surprises also emerged, including Billy Horschel and Steve Stricker, who somewhat unexpectedly sit high on the leaderboard as we turn to what should be an exciting weekend.
Here are the biggest winners and losers on a day that was so unpredictable at Merion that one player managed to make both lists.
Merion Golf Club has proven it is worthy of hosting the U.S. Open.
So much for the idea that Merion Golf Club was going to be a pushover in the face of the world's best golfers. After yielding only five rounds under par in the first round of the 2013 U.S. Open, Merion got even tougher as Friday wore on, wearing out many of the game's elite on Day 2.
By the time play was called with several groups still on the golf course, there were only two players in red numbers, meaning the storied course that has hosted four previous U.S. Opens still has the stuff to fight off all the brawn of modern technology and longer-hitting golfers.
There's still plenty of golf left to be played, so the entire story has yet to be written, but in the first two days of the U.S Open, Merion is a big winner for having beaten down so many of the game's elite.
Adam Scott completely fell apart Friday at Merion Golf Club.
Reigning Masters champion Adam Scott resumed his first round Friday morning one shot out of the lead at two-under and with seven holes left to play.
By the end of his second round some six hours later, Scott was sitting directly on the seven-over cut line and out of contention.
Scott, just two months removed from his first career major title, completely fell apart on Friday. He finished the final seven holes of his first round five-over and then followed that effort with a five-over 75 to miss the cut at Merion Golf Club.
Granted, Scott has not played much since his Masters victory, but few would have imagined him playing 25 holes at 10-over to go from contender to merely the latest green-jacket holder pushed aside by the toughest test in golf.
Billy Horschel posted a three-under 67 in the second round Friday.
Don’t tell Billy Horschel that you can’t succeed at the U.S. Open with an aggressive attitude and game plan; he isn't about to hear that.
Horschel, who won his first career PGA Tour event just a couple of months ago, shot the round of the day by far Friday, posting a three-under 67 to shoot to the top of the leaderboard at one-under par along with Phil Mickelson.
Not only is Horschel the unexpected co-leader, but he is one of only two golfers out of a field of more than 150 that managed to shoot under par.
An absolute birdie machine on the PGA Tour this year, Horschel was on his game Friday, hitting every green in regulation and surrendering just one bogey on a demanding Merion Golf Club layout.
While many major champions struggled at Merion in the second round, Horschel put himself in great position to challenge for his first major title this weekend.
Tiger Woods struggled with the putter on Friday despite shooting even par.
Someone call Steve Stricker; Tiger Woods needs another one of those hour-long putting sessions...ASAP.
Woods played well in Friday's second round from tee to green, but like on Thursday, he couldn't make the majority of the birdie putts he saw, losing an opportunity to put his name on the first page of the 2013 U.S. Open leaderboard.
Yes, Tiger shot a solid even par on Day 2, but the round could have been so much better had some crucial putts dropped in the cup.
If Tiger falls just short over the weekend as he did three months ago at the Masters, he will again look back at the second round as the reason. This time, it won't be a bad drop that is to blame, but rather a bad putter.
Mike Davis and the USGA made all the right moves with Merion's setup on Friday.
The USGA heard the prediction about what would happen at Merion once the bad weather departed—it would be a red-numbers bloodshed. Not so fast, my friend; the USGA knows a little something about how to set up a difficult golf course.
On Friday, the USGA’s Mike Davis played all the right cards at Merion. They kept the rough up and absolutely punitive and placed pins in some truly difficult spots, especially on several holes thought to be vulnerable to elite players.
By U.S. Open standards, the test was fair and left little for players to complain about. It’s also created a jumbled but talented leaderboard that sets up an amazing weekend for the organization’s signature event.
Lee Westwood shot a second-round 77 at Merion on Friday.
No one wants to win a major championship more than Lee Westwood, but the Englishman likely played his way out of yet another chance with a second-round 77 on Friday that was just painful to watch.
After a solid opening-round 70 that was completed on Day 2, Westwood likely torched his 2013 Open chances with dead shanks off the tee, strategic blunders and less-than-stellar putting. Westwood's round was essentially derailed by a pull hook on the 14th hole that went OB and resulted in a double bogey.
Westwood currently sits on the cut line at seven-over, but even if he hangs around for the weekend, it will be for a check only—hopes for a title more than likely vanished with his golf game on Friday.
Justin Rose is one of three Englishmen in contention at Merion Golf Club.
Led by the resurgent Justin Rose, there were three Englishmen tied for second place and only a shot off the lead when play was suspended due to darkness on Friday night.
Rose, who has struggled to live up to expectations this season, was tied for the lead before a late bogey dropped him back to even par.
Joining Rose just a shot back were fellow countrymen Luke Donald and Ian Poulter, who have also been subpar in 2013.
All three of those men are on the short list of the best players to have never won a major, and given their form at Merion Golf Club and how wide open the leaderboard is, one of them might just break through come Sunday. All three did enough on Friday to make sure that opportunity is there for the taking.
Phil Mickelson struggled Friday at Merion Golf Club.
Phil Mickelson had an opportunity Friday to put a stranglehold on the 2013 U.S. Open. Instead, he barely managed to hold on to a share of the lead when the second round was suspended.
A day after shooting an opening-round 67, Mickelson slid backwards with a two-over 72 that puts him into a tie at one-under with Billy Horschel. It's not the score, but the multiple missed opportunities that make Friday so frustrating for Mickelson.
Lefty was terrific with his iron play, but was betrayed by his putter, which allowed multiple birdie opportunities to go unrewarded early in his afternoon round. Two bogeys followed midway through the round and cost Mickelson a chance to move out ahead of a crowded field.
The five-time Open runner-up recorded only that single birdie in the round despite all the opportunities his great shot-making prowess afforded him, something he may regret come Sunday afternoon.
Michael Kim is one of two amateurs in contention at Merion Golf Club.
When play was suspended due to darkness, a pair of unheralded amateur golfers were doing what few professionals could at Merion on Friday—playing under par in the second round.
Michael Kim and Cheng Tsung Pan were both in red numbers during the second round when play was suspended Friday. For his part, Pan finished Friday's play after nine holes at two-under in his second round and even par overall, only one shot off the lead.
Likewise, Kim, a University of California golfer, was at two-under in his round and sat two shots back at one-over par. Kim managed to get through 11 holes on Friday.
Yes, both players have plenty of golf left in front of them, but making the cut is very likely—and if they continue to play well, contention on Sunday isn't out of the question.
Luke Donald had a good second round on Friday, but it could have been even better.
We know that Luke Donald is even par after two rounds and sits just one shot off the lead. That said, if not for five bogeys over the final nine holes of his second round, Donald might not only be the leader, but he might have a couple-shot cushion as well.
After finishing his first round early Friday at two-under, Donald posted a two-over 72 in his second round, which at one point saw him alone in first place at four-under.
Four consecutive bogeys on his back nine, however, including one on a par five, cost Donald the opportunity to be out in front instead of in a large pack of golfers at even par.
It's great that the Englishman is in contention for his first major championship, but if he falls short of that accomplishment by a shot or two over the weekend, he will most certainly look back at the stretch from the fourth hole to the seventh (his second-round back nine) as the point it got away from him.