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Aberg leads US Open at halfway, McIlroy two back

Ludvig Aberg
Follow live text (19:30 BST) and radio commentary (20:30) of round three on the BBC Sport website and app and BBC Sounds. [Getty Images]

US Open leaderboard, round two

-5 Aberg (Swe); -4 DeChambeau (US), Cantlay (US), Detry (Bel); -3 McIlroy (NI), Finau (US), Pavon (Fra); -2 Matsuyama (Jpn)

Selected others: -1 Hatton (Eng), Schauffele (US); Level Garcia (Spa); +3 Rai (Eng); +4 Morikawa (US); +5 Fleetwood (Eng), Fitzpatrick (Eng), McKibbin (NI), Koepka (US), Scheffler (US)

Missed cut: +6 Rose (Eng), Rock (Eng), MacIntyre (Sco), Hovland (Nor); +7 Woods (US); +11 Thomas (US)

Full leaderboard

Swedish sensation Ludvig Aberg leads the US Open by one shot on five under after a fine display on a challenging second day at Pinehurst, North Carolina.

The Ryder Cup star, who only turned professional 12 months ago, carded a one-under 69 to leapfrog overnight leaders Patrick Cantlay and Rory McIlroy.

Cantlay showed resilience in a rocky 71 to finish on four under, while Northern Ireland's McIlroy continued with his patient approach but bogeyed the last to shoot 72 and is one further back.

France's Matthieu Pavon held the joint lead before bogeying his final two holes to end alongside McIlroy and American Tony Finau, who also dropped a shot at the last in a 69.

In the morning wave, Bryson DeChambeau set the clubhouse lead at four under par.

He was briefly overhauled by Belgium's Thomas Detry who managed six birdies but bogeyed two of his final three holes to join the American.

Meanwhile, world number one and red-hot pre-tournament favourite Scottie Scheffler came perilously close to missing his first cut since August 2022 after a ragged round of 74 left him just the right side of the cut line on five over par.

Italy's Francesco Molinari also made the cut with a sensational hole-in-one at the ninth - the second of the day after Austria's Sepp Straka also aced the same hole. The 2018 Open champion had bogeyed the eighth to be at seven over par but the eagle one was enough for him to make the weekend.

However, despite some fine shots, 15-time major champion Tiger Woods is going home after a three-over 73 left him at seven over par.

Debutants Aberg and Pavon set the standard

Over the past 50 years, only three players younger than 24-year-old Aberg have had at least a share of the 36-hole lead at the US Open: Jordan Spieth (21 in 2015 at Chambers Bay), McIlroy (22 in 2011 at Congressional) and Woods (24 years and 169 days in 2000 at Pebble Beach).

All three went on to win.

Aberg is playing in just his third major after finishing runner-up to Scheffler on his debut at the Masters in April.

"I think Augusta proved to me that I was able to be in that position, and it was more of a justification of, yeah, you can actually be there and contend on a Sunday," he said.

This is his latest step in a sensational 12 months that has seen him win on the DP World Tour and PGA Tour before starring in Europe's Ryder Cup win over the US in Rome last September.

And while he missed the cut at last month's US PGA Championship, his metronomic game of fairway, green, hole, repeat is working well in his first US Open.

Pinehurst's Number Two course is regarded as one of the toughest in the world, featuring sandy scrubland off the fairways and treacherous greens with steep run-off areas.

"A US Open is supposed to be hard," said the Swede, who is trying to become the first player since 1913 to win this championship on debut. "It's supposed to challenge any aspect of your game and I feel like it's really doing that."

Patrick Cantlay
Patrick Cantlay had never previously led after a round at a major championship [Reuters]

Cantlay hung in on day two after a poor double bogey at the eighth and further bogeys at 12 and 16.

Ranked sixth best on the PGA Tour this season for scores in the first round of tournaments, the American's record over rounds two through four is concerning.

By far the best in the field around the greens on Thursday, his form dipped on Friday and given the upturned saucer putting surfaces, it will be a crucial metric for him to master if he is going to win his maiden major title.

Crowd favourites DeChambeau and McIlroy in touch

Bryson DeChambeau
Bryson DeChambeau won the 2020 US Open at Winged Foot by six shots [Getty Images]

Each of the past 16 men’s major winners have been within three of the lead after round two – and 26 of the past 28 US Opens – and there are eight players at two under par or better at the halfway stage.

The 2020 US Open champion DeChambeau is one of them and is making a habit of contending at majors this year with a joint sixth at the Masters and second at last month's US PGA Championship.

A helter-skelter display on Friday contained fine lengthy putts and passionate fist pumps to delight the huge crowds following his play.

“I'm excited for the test and challenge," said DeChambeau who had five birdies and four bogeys in his 69. "It's going to evolve, especially with the conditions being as hot as they are. If the wind picks up, it's going to be diabolical."

McIlroy is also once again in contention at a major. He has had five successive top-10s at the US Open, including last year's runner-up finish.

He described Thursday's bogey-free opening as a “controlled round of golf” but seemed to be losing his grip when at two over par for his round on Friday, he putted straight off the green on the 17th (his eighth), only to hole the chip back to save par.

That energised him around the turn and he finally found his first birdie with a seven-footer at the third to reward a magnificent approach into the green.

"I did a pretty good job at keeping some of the mistakes off the scorecard," said the four-time major winner.

"I am in a great position going into the weekend."

He finished eight shots ahead of playing partner Scheffler who was off-colour in a bruising round of 74.

This was his first birdie-free round of golf at a major tournament and there was even a minor outburst from the usually impassive world number one as he tossed his putter following a missed par attempt.

An erratic display was summed up by a grisly double bogey at the fifth hole, a score matched by world number two Xander Schauffele who scrapped his way to a 69 and one under par total.

The newly crowned US PGA champion was joined on that mark by Hatton who hauled himself into the top five before three bogeys in four holes on the back nine checked his progress.

Aaron Rai is at three over, while fellow Englishmen Tommy Fleetwood and Matt Fitzpatrick, as well as Northern Ireland's Tom McKibbin, all made the cut on five over.

However, Scotland's Robert MacIntyre and England's Justin Rose and Robert Rock are heading home after finishing at six over par.

Aces made despite Pinehurst challenge

Sepp Straka
Sepp Straka made his Ryder Cup debut for Europe in Rome last September [Getty Images]

So far, with tournament organisers watering the course between rounds, the Pinehurst track has yet to fully bare its teeth.

However, do not underestimate the mental challenge it poses - this course has hosted this championship three times before and only four players have finished under par.

After his 71 on Friday, Hatton described what is happening in his head during a round as "internally screaming for the most part".

The only bogey-free round of the day belonged to Japan's Hideki Matsuyama who shot a 66 to stay within touch of the leaders on two under.

Finally, the topsy-turvy round of the day went to Straka, who had an unfortunate triple-bogey seven on the third after his ball hit the pin and ricocheted into a bunker.

However, the Austrian was high-fiving everyone in sight after registering the tournament's first hole-in-one on the par-three ninth as he posted a 72 to finish two over.

Those fireworks were later matched by Molinari who celebrated with a big hug from his Ryder Cup team-mate Sergio Garcia, who made his 20th cut on his 25th appearance.