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Russell Henley, Richard Bland share lead, but big names in chasing pack at U.S. Open

The U.S. Open prides itself on being the most open of all majors, with some 9,000 players from all walks of golf having a chance to compete.

Open, indeed.

The weekend at Torrey Pines features major champions and major contenders, players who are unknown or unheralded, all of them still within reach of that U.S. Open trophy. Nine shots separated first from last.

It starts with Richard Bland, a 48-year-old from England who finally won on the European Tour last month in his 478th try. Bland had a 4-under 67 and walked off Torrey Pines with his name atop the leaderboard in only his fourth major. His first one was 23 years ago.

Russell Henley had a chance to build a two-shot lead Friday afternoon when he stood over an 18-foot birdie putt on the par-5 ninth. He missed and then watched his 2-foot par putt spin out of the cup. That gave him a 70 to join Bland at 5-under 137.

They will be in the final group Saturday, with plenty of heavy hitters behind them and getting far more attention. Former Open champion Louis Oosthuizen (71) and Matthew Wolff (68), the U.S. Open runner-up last year at Winged Foot, were one shot behind.

Another shot back were two-time Masters champion Bubba Watson (67) and Jon Rahm (70), a past winner at Torrey Pines and former world No. 1.

Defending champion Bryson DeChambeau and Brooks Koepka were at even par, only five shots behind. They were on the same score but will not be in the same group.

Also at even-par 142 was Justin Thomas, who shot a 69.

"Most times if I'm five back going into a Saturday, I need to probably make 12, 15-plus birdies on the weekend to hang in there," Thomas said. "But this is a U.S. Open. It's a little bit different."

Oosthuizen, coming off a runner-up finish in the PGA Championship, finished with two pars in the morning to cap off a 67 to share the first-round lead with Henley. He didn't get any lower in the second round but was right in the mix.

So was Wolff, a surprise only because he lost all joy playing golf after such a hot start out of Oklahoma State that he walked away from the game for two months, even missing a major at the PGA Championship. He returned to the toughest test in golf and shot 70-68, two-putting for birdie on the final hole.

"It's awesome that I came out here and played well, but I think more importantly, I'm just getting closer to being more comfortable and being happy and enjoying it," Wolff said. "I feel like I've done a very good job of enjoying it, but I've still got a long way to go to keep a level head. Like I said, I'll probably be working on the same thing that I'm working on now for the rest of my career."

Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy were headed the wrong direction. Johnson, who missed the cut in the Masters and PGA Championship, dropped to 4 over until a late rally gave him a 73 and a spot in the weekend. He was seven behind. McIlroy had to birdie two holes down the stretch for a 73. He was six behind.

The 36-hole lead at Torrey Pines in the 2008 U.S. Open was 3-under 139. The course is strong as ever with enough wind, though a marine layer has kept sunshine from baking out some of the greens. Then again, the weekend awaits.

The weekend will include Phil Mickelson, whose deft scrambling and a birdie finish for a 69 kept him inside the cut line. He was seven shots behind in his quest to complete the career Grand Slam.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.