Four years after Justin Rose ended a 43-year wait for an English winner, Paul Casey and Tommy Fleetwood headed into the third round of the US Open at Erin Hills in a four-way tie for the lead.
Casey recovered from a triple-bogey on his fifth hole of the day to add a 71 to his opening 66 and set a clubhouse target of seven under par, which was later matched by Fleetwood and American duo Brooks Koepka and Brian Harman.
Fleetwood, who had made just one halfway cut in his previous seven majors, birdied the last to add a 70 to his opening 67, with overnight leader Rickie Fowler’s 73 leaving him on six under alongside compatriots Jamie Lovemark and JB Holmes.
Hideki Matsuyama was part of a five-strong group a shot further back after a brilliant 65, the Japanese star racing to the turn in 30 and picking up another shot on the 13th before having to settle for five closing pars.
Casey’s opening 66 had left him a shot off the pace and he swiftly joined Fowler in the lead with a birdie from close range on the 11th, his second hole of the day, only to bogey the next and run up a triple-bogey on the 14th.
The 39-year-old was only able to move his fourth shot a matter of inches in heavy rough over the back of the green on the par five, before hacking out sideways and taking three putts from just off the green.
However, after dropping another shot on the 15th, Casey regained his composure superbly to birdie the 17th and 18th, the latter being the second longest hole in major history at 676 yards.
And the former Ryder Cup player then made it five birdies in succession – just one short of the US Open record equalled by Adam Hadwin on Thursday – by picking up shots on the first, second and third.
“It feels good,” said the 39-year-old, who has recorded three consecutive top-six finishes in the Masters but whose sole top-10 finish in 13 US Open appearances came at Oakmont a decade ago.
“It’s not every day you enjoy a round of golf with an eight on the card, but I’m a pretty happy man.
“It was a good display, all my own fault, of what can happen if you get out of position on this golf course. Even just trying to take my medicine is very, very difficult. It’s a good eight in the end. “I lost a bit of skin out there. I got out of position, but it’s the attitude, it’s the grit that matters at the end of the week.
“I had been swinging it well and it felt really, really good a couple holes later to be picking the ball out of the hole for a birdie. Then clawed all the way back and actually picked up one more to the good by the time we were finished.”
Asked if he would have been able to recover from such a mistake earlier in his career, Casey added: “In my good seasons, yes, but there have been times when I struggled, so probably not! “I was upset with the score I had made, but it did not have any effect on my attitude or how I was going to then approach the rest of the round or the next shot. Part of that is just age and part I’ll give credit to Johnny McLaren (his caddie), credit to my wife and my little boy.”
On a crowded leaderboard, American amateur Cameron Champ – who turned 22 on Thursday – and Xander Schauffele were unlikely contenders on five under par alongside Matsuyama, Players Championship winner Si Woo Kim and Brandt Snedeker.
Masters champion Sergio Garcia was two shots further back following a 71, with England’s Andrew Johnston on two under.
But for the first time since the rankings were introduced in 1986, none of the world’s top three made the cut as defending champion Dustin Johnson joined Rory McIlroy and Jason Day in making an early exit.
McIlroy at least had the satisfaction of four birdies in his last six holes to improve by seven shots on his opening 78, while Day’s 75 left him 10 over and world number one Johnson finished four over.
The cut fell at one over par to leave the entire field separated by just eight shots.