Opinion: Major nearly men come back for more
Dustin Johnson, Sergio Garcia, Lee Westwood, Jim Furyk and Adam Scott: This quintet of perennial Major nearly men were once more right in the thick of contention at the halfway point.
Read the bare statistics and weep: between them they have 14 runner-up finishes and and an amazing 86 top-10s.
In the credit column for our Major nearly men are a paltry two wins – Scott in the 2013 Masters and Furyk at the 2003 US Open).
At least those two have some tangible reward for careers of consistent excellence in the biggest events.
It is sometimes unclear whether Johnson can remember where he played last week, let alone the pain of tournaments like last year’s US Open, when he had a putt from 15 feet to win his maiden Major and failed to take Jordan Spieth to a play-off.
For Garcia and Westwood it is wondrous that they both still turn up to Major after Major and put themselves through the trauma in full knowledge that their putting weaknesses will be brutally exposed in public once more.
After two rounds, it was Johnson leading the way. The 1st, historically the hardest opening hole in the US Open, was reduced to a drive and a wedge for an opening birdie. Off he swaggered to the 2nd tee, every inch the Major champion in waiting and promptly pull-hooked a mid-iron into a hot-dog stand. He would get away with a par, but a double bogey at the 4th somehow came as little surprise even though his only score worse than par in the entire championship to date had been a solitary bogey in his second round.
Joining him momentarily at the top was Westwood, courtesy of a holed iron shot, his second of the week. There have also been a couple of chip-ins. When you think about it, this is pretty resourceful from Westwood. Since at times he seems incapable of getting the ball in the hole from inside six feet, you have to think laterally about how you are going to record some sub-par scores to set against the inevitable bogeys.
Unfortunately, this unlikely eagle was bookended by bogeys, leaving our hero treading water just as we have come to expect in these situations.
Then there was Garcia, stylishly trapping a fade down the 1st (being able to watch the ball flight is a brilliant application of technology, hugely enhancing golf coverage) and hitting his approach so crisply that it somehow managed to dig in halfway down the ramp that is Oakmont’s opening green. The ensuing three putts were nothing if not predictable.
Of course, once the Spaniard had given himself some work to do and moved away from the lead then he started to warm to his task. Eventually he had been hitting it so close, so often that the birdie putts had to start falling.
Somewhere in front was Scott, bizarrely low-profile for someone so high class and stylish, making the odd unnoticed bogey before reappearing to hit an imperious mid-iron into the 7th that finished holeside.
As for Furyk, his challenge was over before it got started. A bogey, bogey, double opening was exactly what you would have expected from the likes of the hitherto unknown Andrew Landry but hardly a man with Furyk’s experience in front of his home crowd.
What next for our Major nearly men?
So far so predictable. Much can and will happen on a last day that will also include the end of the third round.
Perhaps this time it will be different. Maybe one of our heroes will warm our hearts. By rights, the winner will come from among the Major nearly men.
Personally, and taking no pleasure from such a prediction, I’m not so sure.