BROOKLINE, Mass. – For every Collin Morikawa and his consecutive years to win a major, there is a Joel Dahmen, who only four years ago would have been delighted to even play in one.
Jon Rahm is the defending US Open champion, one shot off the lead. He will play weekends at the Country Club with Hayden Buckley, who studied while playing in Missouri because he thought he would need to find a job after college.
The dozen players separated by two shots heading into the weekend include the top three players in the world rankings and four of the top seven: Masters champion Scottie Scheffler, Rahm, Rory McIlroy and Morikawa.
“I think it’s great for the game of golf to have the top ranked players and the best players up there, especially in the tournament where really the best player ends up winning,” Rahm said.
It also includes two PGA Tour rookies and two players who have never won on tour.
Indeed, this US Open has something for everyone. He just doesn’t have Phil Mickelson, who missed the cut by eight shots.
Morikawa was looking for something in his game and found a “baby draw” instead of his traditional fade, and it worked like a charm at Brookline. He tied the league’s lowest score on Friday with a 4-under 66 for a share of the lead with Dahmen, the cancer survivor and golfer popular.
Rahm did his best to keep pace with an eagle and a series of big putts that looked just as valuable. Rahm had a 67 and was in the five-player group one shot behind. That included McIlroy, coming off a win at the Canadian Open, who hit his stride on the back nine with three birdies over his final four holes for a 69.
Not to be overlooked was Scheffler, the world’s No. 1 player, who chipped in from a thick rough court of the par-5 14th green for an eagle that brought the Texan back into the mix with a 67. He was at two strokes behind.
Morikawa, Rahm and Scheffler have combined to win four of the last nine major tournaments. And then there’s McIlroy, who has four majors all to himself, but none since 2014.
“It’s the US Open. No one pushed it this far and ran away,” Morikawa said. “The last few days are a huge boost for me heading into this weekend, and hopefully we can sort of make a separation somehow.”
The idea of the US Open is to identify the best players. Some of them require major championship introductions on weekends.
Starting with Dahmen, who will never be accused of taking himself too seriously, even if he takes his game seriously. He considered withdrawing from the 36-hole qualifier twice last week, before it started and after the first round.
But he held on and with a 68 on Friday, he is playing in the last group of a major tournament for the first time. He joined Morikawa at under 135.
“We won’t be leaving until 3:45 p.m. tomorrow. I usually have to be home by 5 p.m. for dinner,” Dahmen said. “So it will be different, that’s for sure.”
The group one shot behind includes Buckley, who was not at the US Open until he made a 20-foot birdie putt in the postseason for the final spot in qualifying 11 days ago.
He was fading, like so many others, with three bogeys during a five-hole streak around the bend when he got back on track. Birdies on the last two holes gave him another 68.
Also at 136, Aaron Wise, with a PGA Tour win and nothing better than a tie for 17th in his previous nine majors; and Beau Hossler, who played weekends at the Olympic Club as a teenage amateur in 2012 but hasn’t been heard from in the majors since then.
They were examples that the US Open being open to all does not end with qualifying for the right to play the toughest test in golf.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.