Paul Casey's 66 at Oakmont had players calling it one of the best they've seen. Better than Miller's 63? Paul Casey's 66 has U.S. Open field buzzing at Oakmont

Friday saw high drama at the U.S. Open, with Paul Casey firing a 66, Angel Cabrera finishing strong enough to retain his lead and Phil Mickelson missing the cut.

OAKMONT, Pa. - On a day when the Oakmont Country Club's teeth were razor-sharp, despite no wind and shortened rough, three rounds finished below par.

And one of them was way, way below par. Englishman Paul Casey fired a blistering 66 after an opening-round 77.

"I'd have to say this ranks as one of my finest ever," Casey said. "This was the toughest golf course I've ever played."

Casey acknowledged it was a mix of good ball-striking and a few lucky bounces, starting with a 45-foot birdie putt on his first hole, an aggressive putt that should have sailed past by 10 feet.

"You need breaks like that," he said. "That boosted my confidence. I got a few good breaks, but the rest was good ball striking."

Paul Goydos, who missed the cut half-jokingly said, "It's better than the 63. You listening, Johnny?" referring to Johnny Miller's legendary U.S. Open round in 1973.

The 66 was three shots better than two 69s fired by leader Angel Cabrera and Stephen Ames.

"The measure of a good round is what the next-best scores are," said an impressed Jim Furyk, who is at 6-over for the tournament.

Tougher pin positions and firmer greens sent overall scores higher Friday. The field average was more than 1.5 shots higher at 76.9.

Ian Poulter finished with a disappointing 74 but still says the course can be beaten.

"Anyone in the top 30 can shoot under par on this golf course," said Poulter, who shot 4-over today to finish at 6-over. "You can't hit bad shots. I hit four bad shots today. Sounds easy, right?"

After getting to 3-under-par for the tournament early in his round, first-round leader Nick Dougherty's game went south, ending with a 77. He said putting was the difference.

"I just didn't make anything after the fourth hole I played today," he said. Dougherty had just 11 putts on the back nine Thursday.

Unlike Casey and Dougherty's big swings between rounds, Bubba Watson's score didn't fluctuate much; he finished with a 71 to stay one back of leader Cabrera. They will make up Saturday's final pairing.

The afternoon round had its own high drama. Cabrera's final-hole birdie sent shockwaves through Oakmont. It meant 19 players at 11-over would go home for the weekend, including Phil Mickelson - as per the Open's 10-shot rule.

Mickelson finished earlier but wasn't expecting to make the cut. He was already talking about changing his preparation for majors, which caused him to injure his wrist this year.

"I'm going to have to change things," he said. "This really was dangerous doing what I did because the rough was twice as long and I thought they may play it like that. What good is it to practice?"

Tiger Woods remains in the hunt after a 74, putting him five shots back of the lead. Asked whether he thinks another 66 can be shot this weekend, he says it's up to the committee.

"A lot depends on the pin locations," Woods said. "Are they going to give us a chance or set them so it's brutal?"

June 16, 2007

Brandon Tucker is the Managing Editor for Golf Advisor. To date, his golf travels have taken him to over two dozen countries and over 500 golf courses worldwide. While he's played some of the most prestigious courses in the world, Tucker's favorite way to play the game is on a great muni in under three hours. Follow Brandon on Twitter at @BrandonTucker.

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