SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y. -- Everybody is chasing Dustin Johnson at the U.S. Open. He's the only player under par. He has a four-shot lead. The wind and the rain and the tough conditions at Shinnecock Hills don't bother him one bit. Now it's about whether anyone can push him over the weekend and avoid turning this championship into a DJ runaway.
For those chasing Dustin Johnson ...
Well, it's not good news, especially lately. Aside from Johnson being four shots clear of the field and the only player in the field under par, recent history is on his side.
Take, for instance, how the past four U.S. Opens have played out. If you have the lead, or a piece of it, over the past four years, you win.
If you are at least 2 under and the only player in the field in red numbers after 36 holes, you win.
If you are up four shots at the U.S. Open, which he is, you win. (Unless you are Tom McNamara and the year is 1909.
Since 2014, Johnson is a combined 7 under at the U.S. Open, which is better than anyone else. He has eight rounds in the 60s, more than anyone else.
Will any of that be on Johnson's mind as he sleeps on the lead heading into Saturday's third round?
"No, I usually don't have any trouble sleeping," he said. "But, yeah, there's still a lot of golf left."
Ian Poulter's U.S. Open misery
There's always something with the U.S. Open and Ian Poulter. Because, let's be honest, he doesn't exactly love this event.
"Every one of the U.S. Opens I've played in the past, you know, I've kind of -- I've been disappointed. I've been angry," Poulter said Thursday. "I've been frustrated. They're tough. They're always set up difficult. They're supposed to be difficult. But shooting over par is hard to take sometimes."
While he's been a contender at all the other majors, he has never really been a factor at the U.S. Open. He's had three top-10s at the Masters, three at the Open Championship and two at the PGA Championship. He has not had a single one at the U.S. Open. His best finish was 12th in 2006 at Winged Foot. In fact, he never entered a weekend under par. That was about to change. He stood on the eighth tee, his 17th hole of the day, 3 under. He and Johnson, who ended his day hours earlier at 4 under, were the only two in red figures. Then the U.S. Open did it to Poulter again. He bladed a bunker shot. Chunked a couple chips. He walked off the green with a triple-bogey, back to even par. Then came a bogey at 18. Just like that, his U.S. Open pain returned.
Surely, he's done now, convinced the U.S. Open is out to get him?
Yes, and no.
"It's easy to talk about it and dwell on it and kind of chew it over," Poulter said after the round. "When you're out of position on this golf course and you're trying not to make another mistake and another mistake, it just looks really stupid. So, yes, I felt stupid knifing the first one. I felt even more stupid semi-chunking the next one, and I didn't do much better on the next one either.
"So maybe it makes a few people happy out there that we kind of mess up just as good as everyone else. We're human, right? We make a mistake. I think the best outcome for me is to put it out of my mind and look at the position I'm in for this weekend. I'm tied for fourth. I feel pretty confident about my game, where my game is. I just need to make sure I don't make any silly little mistakes.
When the key players hit the course
The big names that are still around
Jordan Spieth is gone. Jason Day is gone. Tiger Woods is gone. Sergio Garcia is gone. All four missed the cut. Some big names are still left, and some can still put pressure on Johnson. Defending champion Brooks Koepka, Justin Rose and Henrik Stenson are all tied for fourth, five shots behind. Rickie Fowler is six shots back after closing with a bogey at 18. Some others are playing the weekend but would have to make big moves. Justin Thomas is tied for 15th, but eight shots back. Masters champ Patrick Reed is nine shots behind, and Phil Mickelson is 10 shots back. The largest 36-hole deficit came in 1975, when Lou Graham rallied from 11 shots down. But don't expect that over the final 36 holes here.