UNIVERSITY PLACE, Wash. — At the start of the week they were just two of 156 golfers, 1.28 percent of the entire field at the U.S. Open.
Now, Utah’s Daniel Summerhays and Tony Finau are two golfers in the top 10 at the halfway point of the tournament at Chambers Bay Golf Course, two shots off the pace set by Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed.
Summerhays and Finau both came in at 3-under-par 137 Friday, leaving them in a tie for fifth place after 36 holes. Summerhays, who got to 5-under on the day at one point, shot a 67 to go with his opening-round 70, while Finau added a 68 to his opening-round 69.
(They’ll tee off Saturday in back-to-back groups with Finau joining Joost Luiten of the Netherlands, while Summerhays will play with Ben Martin of South Carolina.)
Neither Summerhays nor Finau was expected to contend this week, although both expressed optimism heading into the tournament. Summerhays had played in one previous U.S. Open, when he missed the cut by seven shots in 2010, and in the PGA last year in which he finished in a tie for 33rd place. Finau, a rookie on the PGA Tour, is making his first U.S. Open appearance.
For about an hour around midday Friday, Summerhays found himself atop the leaderboard at the U.S. Open after going to 5 under for the tournament with five birdies on the day. He was tied with Masters’ champion Jordan Spieth and first-day leaders Dustin Johnson and Henrik Stenson.
“It was exciting — I felt pretty calm and had a good awareness of all the things I could do,’’ Summerhays said. “I was really soaking it in and enjoying it.’’
Summerhays started the day at even par after a first round 70, but after an opening bogey at No 10 he made birdies at 12, 13 and 17 to turn at 2-under 32. Then he birdied the par-5 No. 1 with a two-putt birdie and sank birdie putts at 3 and 4 to go to 5-under on the day.
“It was really fun, the crowd was rooting me on,’’ he said. “It was fun for them to yell ‘Summerhays,’ kind of a fun last name, I guess, to say. They were shouting it, sort of an unknown name and they were really supportive of me.’’
But a disaster of sorts struck at the par-4 7th hole, where Summerhays drove it left into the fescue and made double bogey.
His second shot hit the bottom part of the severely sloping green and rolled about 100 feet down into more fescue at the edge of the bunker. From there, he chipped past the hole, into a bowl area and his putt from 30 feet went left and ended up 12 feet away. He missed the putt.
Despite the disappointing double, Summerhays is feeling good about his game.
“Overall any time you can make six birdies on this golf course, you’re doing a lot of good things,’’ he said. “I was fortunate to get some putts to sneak in the edges and I felt really good about my round.’’
Finau played his first nine in even par with birdies at 12 and 16 and bogeys at 13, for the second straight day and 18, which played as a par-4 Friday.
“Eliminating the big numbers is the biggest thing and I made some nice putts when I needed them,’’ Finau said. “I didn’t have a lot of great opportunities, but when I had them, I was able to capitalize on them.’’
He two-putted for birdie at 10, then added birdies at 5, 7 and 9 with a double bogey at 6.
At 7, Finau hit his approach within three feet and sank the putt, then rolled in a 25-footer that broke several inches from right to left at No. 9. It marked the second straight day Finau finished his round with a birdie.
“That was huge,’’ he said. “Anytime you can finish with a birdie it’s a great thing.’’
Finau says he's enjoying the experience of playing in his first-ever major golf tournament and that playing well has been a bonus.
Summerhays has been in contention before on the PGA Tour, but never in a major. Now he looks forward to the weekend's challenge.
“We’re only halfway home, so I’d like to really be there on Sunday and really get the nerves going and see how I do, because there’s no way to learn unless you are in that position,’’ Summerhays said. “I look forward to hopefully seeing my name up near the top come late Sunday.’’