5 things we learned Friday at Oakmont

u.s. open, oakmont
Oakmont is typically viewed as one of the hardest courses in the country, but rain has led to soft conditions and more red numbers than usual.
By Matt S. Craig
PGA.com

Published: Friday, June 17, 2016 | 9:15 p.m.

After a long day of play Friday at the U.S. Open, the tournament yielded five lessons that can be learned going into the weekend:

1. Low scores can be found, but the course is toughening up

Oakmont is definitely a difficult golf course. Many think it's the toughest in the country. But Thursday's rain led to soft scoring conditions, and a lot of red numbers were posted as a result.

However, between first round and second round action the grounds crew were out on the course, rolling the greens and making sure Oakmont lived up to its reputation. In addition, the fairways dried out, leading to more tee balls being swallowed up by the course's rough and bunkers. As the day went on, Oakmont started to show its teeth.

But there were some low rounds to be found for those who were on their game. Most notably, Daniel Summerhays's 65 vaulted him way up the leaderboard and into contention. Andy Sullivan and Lee Slattery both posted rounds of 68, and Jim Furyk and and Louis Oosthuizen had low rounds going before darkness stopped play.

2. Dustin Johnson may be the best ball striker in the field this week

We all know Dustin Johnson can hit the ball a mile, but it's his accuracy this week that's turning heads. His ability to put the ball consistently in the fairway has allowed him to hit the green in regulation nearly every hole.

After hitting 16 of 18 greens in round 1, he turned around and hit 15 of 18 in round two. This led to two impressive streaks: 25 straight greens in regulation, the longest such streak at a U.S. Open since 1986, and 27 straight holes without a bogey.

If he can keep up this level of ball striking, he's going to be knocking on the door come Sunday. If he can drain a few more putts, he may just run away with it.

3. The par-5's aren't scoring holes

At most stops on the PGA Tour, par-5's are the place for players to make up strokes. Usually if you're making pars, you're actually losing strokes to the field.

That's not the case this week at the U.S. Open. The fourth hole scoring average is exactly 5.0000, while the 12th is playing at 5.2489. It definitely doesn't help that both holes are set up over 600 yards, with the 12th playing as the longest hole in U.S. Open history at 684 yards. For players who miss the fairway, it's hard to reach the green even in three shots.

Players looking to make up ground on the field are forced to look elsewhere. The drivable 14th and 17th holes are where they can find it, playing as the two easiest holes on the course.

4. Playing 36 holes of golf in a day is tough

Friday was a long day for players that were originally scheduled for Thursday afternoon tee times. Due to the weather delays, these players didn't play a single shot on Thursday, leading to a long day of 36 holes on Friday.

The fatigue weighed on players, and Oakmont is not a course where you can afford to make mental mistakes. Henrik Stenson for example went around the course in 69 in the morning, but faltered in the afternoon sitting at 10-over-par when darkness suspended his round. Angel Cabrera followed an even-par round of 70 with a five-over-par standing through 17 holes of his second round. Gary Stal and Geoff Ogilvy both went 71-76.

This is important to consider on Saturday, when the other half of the field who didn't play Friday will likely be teeing it up for 36 holes. Which players will fatigue, and how will that fatigue hit their scores? It's definitely a storyline to follow.

5. The back nine is where you make your move

Saturday is moving day. But where can you make up strokes on a course as tough as Oakmont?

Well, so far this week the back nine looks to be far easier than the front. In round one, the scoring average on the back nine was 36.7886 as opposed to the front's 37.4550. For the second round, it was even more evident with the back averaging 36.3019 to the front's 37.7647.

That doesn't seem like a lot, but those stats stretched over 156 players in the field means that each decimal is massive. Consider that Daniel Summerhays shot 30 on the back nine, and a pair of 32's were posted by Lee Slattery and Andy Sullivan. If players are going to make a move, the back nine is the place to do it.

Matt S. Craig is a PGA.com intern and a Digital Sports Production student at Ball State University.