Another great U.S. Open day for not-so-greats

Hang on. There are 42 players under par at the U.S. Open, and yet six of the world's top ten players are heading home early?!?

True story! And all part of a topsy-turvy week for major championship golf's self-styled toughest test of the year.

Here come the grades.

Dustin Johnson

Grade: F

There is a history of reigning U.S. Open champions missing the cut, and Johnson did his best to conform to it, becoming the ninth returning champ to exit early since 1993. His departure also helped make this the first time since the world rankings began that the world Nos. 1, 2 and 3 all checked out of their accommodation on Friday night at a major championship.

World ranking: No. 1
Score: 75-73 (4 over, missed cut)

Rory McIlroy

Grade: F

He moved into the red for the day -- an improvement on Round 1. But the Northern Irishman plays major championships to win, not finish outside the top 100. And here's a sobering thought about McIlroy's U.S. Open career record: Save for Congressional in 2011, when he posted 65-66 in the first two rounds to lead by 6 shots, he has broken par just once in 16 pre-cut rounds.

World ranking: No. 2
Score: 78-71 (5 over, missed cut)

Jason Day

Grade: F

Missed weekends in the majors are a rarity for Day; this is only his third in 27 starts. But this was not a good two days for Day. He's more commonly seen racking up top-10s. In fact, he has 13 of them -- exactly the same number Tiger Woods tallied after he had played 27 majors. The difference? The Australian has one victory, Woods had seven. That's no knock on Day. Just a reminder of how great Woods truly was.

World ranking: No. 3
Score: 79-75 (10 over, missed cut)

Hideki Matsuyama

Grade: A

A stunning front nine from the highest-ranked player remaining in the field saw him card six birdies to turn in 30. There were briefly whispers that he might break the magic major championship barrier of 63, but where the putts had dropped on the front, they began burning the lips on the back. A wonderful Friday nonetheless and one that matters: 19 of the last 20 U.S. Open winners were no more than two shots back after 36 holes -- right where Matsuyama finds himself tonight.

World ranking: No. 4
Score: 74-65 (7 under)

Jordan Spieth

Grade: C

His birdie putt on the final green was the story of the day in microcosm. From 21 feet to the hole, it ran sweet and smooth before barely slipping past the edge. After posting five straight top-4 finishes in majors from April 2015 to April 2016, he's now facing the prospect of five straight majors without a top ten. He needs those putts to start dropping to buck that trend -- and mount the charge he'll still believe is in him.

World ranking: No. 5
Score: 73-71 (Even)

Henrik Stenson

Grade: F

The Iceman has never had the greatest record at the Masters, so his failure to make the weekend rounds in April would not have hurt as much as the early departure this week. He needed 65 putts to get through 36 holes, despite taking none on the 11th hole in Round 1 after crashing a 152-yard approach straight down the hole.

World ranking: No. 6
Score: 74-73 (3 over, missed cut )

Sergio Garcia

Grade: B-
His verdict following his round was that he was "not firing on all cylinders," but this week marks the first time in 18 appearances that the Spaniard has broken par in both of his opening rounds. (Bear in mind that par this week is an atypical -- for the U.S. Open -- 72, but still.) He's in a strong position to add to his ten tournament top-25 finishes. Can he aim higher?
World ranking: No. 7
Score: 70-71 (3 under)

Alex Noren

Grade: F

A fourth missed cut in five visits to the U.S. Open for Noren. Worse still, after 12 rounds in the tournament, he has only broken 73 once. The harsh truth is that he has now played 16 majors and ten WGC stroke play events, with just one top-10 to show for it. The briefest sniff of good news? The British Open at Royal Birkdale is up next, where he made his major debut in 2008 and was T-5 heading into the final round.

World ranking: No. 8
Score: 73-77 (6 over, missed cut)

Rickie Fowler

Grade: B-

The man who earned an A+ for his opening lap of 65 was maintaining that pace through 28 holes. But no one plays a U.S. Open without hitting a rough patch, and Fowler duly ran into his, carding three bogeys on the bounce, before using all his short-game skills to grind out his return to the clubhouse. He'll wish the back nine had been different, but if his head's in the right place he'll accept that he limited the damage and remain right in contention.

World ranking: No. 9
Score: 65-73 (6 under)

Jon Rahm

Grade: F

An improvement on Thursday for Rahm in the sense that during Round 1 the frustration was boiling over and in Round 2 it merely bubbled, simmered and spat. It's important to remember that he's just 22 years old, but his hot-headed petulance will neither win him friends nor help him win tournaments.

World ranking: No. 10
Score: 76-73 (5 over, missed cut)

Paul Casey

Grade: A

Not many golfers post a snowman on their card and still find themselves tied for the lead after 36 holes of the U.S. Open. Casey's response to the golfing disaster of a triple bogey 8 was spectacular: Five straight birdies, all converted from inside 13 feet. Tied atop the leaderboard, it's a new perspective for Casey. In 52 previous major championship starts, his previous best position after 36 holes was T-3 at the 2010 British Open and 2015 Masters.

World ranking: No. 14
Score: 66-71 (7 under)

Tommy Fleetwood

Grade: B+

The Englishman has needed just 55 putts so far this week, which is a turn for the better for him; he has only twice averaged fewer than 30 putts per round in a European Tour season (and never better than 29.80). Consistently brilliant from tee to green, if he maintains that form with the short stick, don't overlook him. Can he avoid regression to the mean?

World ranking: No. 33
Score: 67-70 (7 under)

Brooks Koepka

Grade: B

Surprised he's tied for the lead? You shouldn't be. Nine of his last 11 major starts have reaped top-25 finishes, and, having missed just three of 28 fairways and only six of 36 greens in regulation, he's on track for at least another. Left-field curiosity: Four years ago next week, Koepka won an event on the Challenge Tour in Scotland at a course called Spey Valley, a sweeping layout fringed by high fescue, with long hikes between holes and the longest par-5 in the country. Remind you of anywhere?

World ranking: No. 22
Score: 67-70 (7 under)

Nikki Stricker

Grade: A

This is a grade for just one of the caddies, but by extension the honor is conferred on them all. Because Erin Hills is a long enough course from tee to green, it's longer still when you factor in the steep hills, and longer yet given that some estimates suggest there is a cumulative one mile of walking between holes. That's no stroll in the park. Nikki takes the plaudits for helping guide husband Steve to a weekend of golf on his home patch of Wisconsin.