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Wu flirts with lead, easily makes U.S. Open cut

Dylan Wu plays from bunker on the fourth hole during the second round at the 2021 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines Golf Course in San Diego, Calif. on Friday, June 18, 2021. (Jeff Haynes/USGA)

It’s difficult to pinpoint what the best part of Dylan Wu’s play was in the second round of the U.S. Open Friday.

Was it that the Medford golfer would have grabbed a share of the lead had he not narrowly missed a putt from just off the green?

Or, was it how hard he fought after a double bogey and a wayward driver threatened to undo what had been magnificent work through the first 32 holes of the national championship at Torrey Pines Golf Course in San Diego.

“Probably grinding it out,” Wu said by phone Friday evening.

But, he acknowledged, “It was cool looking at the leaderboard and seeing myself in second place.”

Wu, in only the second PGA event of his career, finished an alternately exhausting and exhilarating day with three straight pars to easily make the cut and set up what figures to be a memorable weekend.

He began Friday completing the final six holes of his suspended first round — including making a birdie on the last for a 1-under 70 — then turned right around and shot 73 in the second round to reach the halfway point at 1-over 143.

At the time, that put Wu in a tie for 25th place.

By the time the afternoon wave of players finished, he had climbed to co-21st.

He will tee off at 11:12 a.m. this morning with Brian Harman.

Wu, 24, is a 2014 graduate of St. Mary’s High and is a member of the Korn Ferry Tour, where he’s 28th on the points list. He qualified for the U.S. Open by placing second in a sectional tournament last week.

He was steady through the first 12 holes of the opening round Thursday before play was suspended because of darkness. He returned to the course at 6:45 Friday morning and parred the first five holes before birdieing his final hole with a 5-foot putt.

His group, which finished the first round on the ninth hole, had about 10 minutes to sign their scorecards and take a shuttle to the first tee for the start of Round 2.

Wu picked up where he left off, making a 21-foot birdie putt on the 228-yard par-3 first hole.

Another birdie at No. 4 with a 4-foot putt got him to 3 under, and on the fifth hole, he came up short on a 16-foot putt from just off the green that would have tied him for the lead at 4 under.

“Overall, I was really happy,” said Wu. “I really grinded out a lot of good pars yesterday and then this morning I got it going for a little bit. You’re always going to hit a little bit of a rough patch, and I did, but then I still hit a lot of good shots and was still grinding.”

Getting to play extra holes in the morning was a bonus.

“It was kind of nice playing in the morning for the majority of my two days just because morning conditions are a little easier than in the afternoon,” he said. “No matter what time you’re playing a U.S. Open, it’s going to be hard. But having fresh greens with less people stepping on them is a little more helpful than playing at 7 p.m., which is what I was doing last night.”

After Wu’s brush with the lead, he bogeyed Nos. 6 and 7 to fall back to 1 under.

He played the next seven holes in even par, throwing in a birdie and a bogey before a double bogey at the 15th knocked him back.

The birdie came on the 12th hole, when he holed a 25-yard shot from a greenside bunker as TV announcer Peter Jacobsen, himself a Portland native, emphatically pointed out Wu’s Medford roots.

That shot moved Wu into a tie for fifth, but he gave it back with a bogey on the 13th.

The 15th was his worst hole of the two rounds. His first two shots found the rough, and it took him four shots to hit the par-4 green.

Wu regrouped to par the last three holes despite having to wrangle out of the rough on all three.

He made a sand save at 16, and got up and down from the rough at 17 and 18.

“In the U.S. Open, you don’t need to necessarily make birdies,” he said. “You have to have a lot of control of your golf ball and stay disciplined and mentally tough because you are going to make bogeys and you are going to make mistakes. It’s very, very hard. You just have to move on to the next moment, and I thought I did a pretty good job of that the first two days.”

Wu hit seven of 14 fairways, tying him for 60th in the field. He was co-24th in greens in regulation, 28th in driving distance with an average of 317.3 yards and tied for 43rd with 29 putts on the day.

He admitted he could have hit more fairways off the tee, but he erred on the side of each hole where there was less trouble.

“I didn’t hit as many fairways today, but I actually didn’t feel like I hit the driver that bad,” he said. “I hit a few in the first cut and a few in the fairway bunkers just because hitting it in the fairway bunkers is better than hitting it in the rough. Some of the drives I hit from 13 through 18 were just a little too conservative of lines.”

He managed to work out of trouble most of the time.

Over the final 10 holes, he made three putts from 16 to 18 feet to save par.

After the round, Wu had lunch but didn’t spend a lot of time on the practice range. He hit balls for about 25 minutes, he said, “just small check-up work.”

His personal trainer is on the grounds, and they did stretching and other body work.

“I played 24 holes today and was up pretty early, so rest is pretty key,” said Wu.

He’s ready for whatever the weekend brings.

“I think I’ve just got to do the same thing,” he said. “There will be a little less pressure. I’m playing on the weekend and there’s nothing to lose. I’m in a good position. If I play two good rounds, I have a chance to finish in the top 10, then who knows what happens.

“I’m still going to try to stay mentally strong just because every shot maybe matters to me a little more than maybe guys who have been on the tour for 10 or 15 years and made a bunch of money.”

Reach sports editor Tim Trower at 541-776-4479 or ttrower@rosebudmedia.com