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PINEHURST, N.C. -- Majors outside of the Masters are dependent on the course and weather to determine what type of tournament will take place. Included among those factors are the weather leading up to the event and the way the hosting organization sets up the golf course. Because there are myriad factors and not all are controlled by humans, the outcome can be a bit of a crapshoot. 

In 2021, Kiawah Island seemed like a perfect golf course for the PGA Championship. Each shot had consequences, both good and bad. This week reminds of that week. The set up is somehow satisfying players (Scottie Scheffler, who is 5 over, called it "fun"), fans and even those of us in the media (who have yet to find a golf tournament we won't pick apart).

The first ingredient of a great setup is a great golf course, and Pinehurst is certainly one of those. No Laying Up explains why it's particularly great for championship golf, but this week is also a credit to the USGA, which has structured a test that both rewards and punishes players for different types of shots.

"It's funny, I feel like Xander [Schauffele] and my shots, we both sort of landed it probably the exact same distance [on the 15th hole]," explained Rory McIlroy, who sits T5 at 3 under after 36 holes. "But his was a little more aggressive and a little more right towards the pin, so it stayed on the ledge. Mine was a little further left where the slope is a little steeper. Mine came back down. He's got a birdie putt from 10 feet, and I'm trying to do well to save par."

Those are proper consequences.

"As I said, you just have to be so precise. If you're going left of the hole there, you have to land it at least pin-high, if not a little bit past it. But that's the great thing about this golf course. If you take a shot on and you pull it off, it rewards you. Xander got that reward on that 15th hole today, and I didn't."

"It is fun," added Schauffele, agreeing with Scheffler. "It's hard. It's a hard golf course; it really is. It's rewarding. You hit a good golf shot, you're going to get rewarded. You get a little greedy, you try and grab a shot where you shouldn't, it bites you really quick. It makes you think sort of about instant regret on not taking your medicine."

This should continue over the next two days as Pinehurst keeps baking in the sun. The USGA has exercised complete control over the course so far, and it can make plenty of tweaks, if it so chooses, this weekend. 

So far, it's been perfection, and that should continue on Saturday and Sunday.

Here are eight other thoughts about the first two rounds of the 124th U.S. Open.

2. Ludvig Åberg looks the part: So, this is really his first U.S. Open? Nobody has won in their debut U.S. Open in 111 years. Nobody has even led in their debut in 39 years. And yet, this is no fluke. Ludvig Åberg can absolutely win the 124th U.S. Open.

Here are his ranks so far this week.

  • Greens in regulation: 1st 
  • Fairways hit: 1st
  • Strokes gained off the tee: 1st 
  • Strokes gained ball striking: 1st 
  • Spot on the leaderboard: 1st

Perhaps the most striking thing about watching Åberg at the Ryder Cup last year was how composed he played. Surely he gets high and low internally, but he rarely emotes and never gets truly rattled. That is clearly serving him well at this U.S. Open, and now he's staring down a solo second at Augusta National and a potential win at Pinehurst. Is it possible that we're underrating his ceiling?

3. Rory McIlroy is adulting: What has stood out about McIlroy's first two days at Pinehurst is that he is playing sensible, grown-up golf. His distance control has been awesome, he's picking the right lines, and he's not trying to do too much. Rory has hit 24 of 28 fairways and 27 of 36 greens (top five in both categories). He's outside the top 75 in putting but inside the top five on the leaderboard. He has shown off the perfect way to play a modern U.S. Open.

And sure, it helps when you hit it 360 yards off the tee, but that has not normally been his issue at major championships. It's seemingly either been mental mistakes or distance control that has bit him over the last few years. Both of those have been on point this weekend, and now, he's made folks believe what has, at times, become unbelievable: that he really is going to end the streak and win the fifth major championship of his career.

4. The messy 5th: The top three players in the world were roasted by the par-5 5th -- playing as the easiest hole on the course this week (by far) -- by combining to score 4 over on Friday. Both Scheffler and Schauffele saw their balls land on the green and roll into the native area, only for their pitches out to come up short with their balls rolling all the way back down the hill. All in all, it was a complete and total mess.

"You can hit a good shot," explained Schauffele. "It's sort of like a bunker. You don't really trust what's underneath versus like an actual bunker. There's a ton of sand in the bunker. You want to hit it hard, down into the ground. You're worried is there more sand or less sand. That little bit of hesitation is not good when your room for margin isn't that good.

"It's doable. I'm sure there will be a highlight of someone holing out or hitting a very close shot out there. It's very doable. We just made a mess of it."

That they did.

5. The Greatest Showman: CBS Sports' Joe Musso dubbed Bryson DeChambeau "The Greatest Showman" at this year's PGA Championship, and it's been more of the same at this week's U.S. Open. Following Bryson for a while Friday, it was shocking how pro-DeChambeau the crowds were. Shocking! That was the case at the Masters and PGA as well, but one could argue that it's even been ratcheted up this week.

Bryson is loving it, and his play has been worthy of the praise he's receiving. DeChambeau recently said that the best golf he played came before his U.S. Open win in 2020, and he confirmed that this year's major championship performances have been back at that level he was at in 2018 when he won four times on the PGA Tour. When asked why, he credited his equipment.

"I can't tell you how important it is to have stuff that works for you," he said. "For anyone out there listening, it's possibly the most important thing to have done to yourself if you're trying to improve your game, especially at an elite level. I can play with a junior set on YouTube, but it is never going to be the same as having your own golf clubs where you can control the shots day in and day out.

"It's really good equipment, and as I've said before in other press conferences, it's me getting a little bit older and realizing there's more to life than just golf, and when I'm out here, appreciating the time that I have out here, and hopefully continuing that fun that I can showcase to others."

DeChambeau is somebody who looks at problems from every conceivable angle, and his solution to the professional game of late has been the 3D-printed irons he put in play at the Masters.

No matter the source of his confidence, it is clear that he is delighting in being the toast of major season. And now, he's in a great position for his second U.S. Open in five years. It's not necessarily the major at which anyone believed he was going to thrive, but this best version of him is clearly capable of winning any major that gets thrown his way. He should be in it until the end.

6. How far back: In 26 of the last 28 U.S. Opens, the eventual winner has been within three shots after 36 holes (the exceptions were Webb Simpson in 2012 and Brooks Koepka in 2018). If that holds, then the eventual champion this week will be one of the following.

  • Ludvig Aberg (-5)
  • Bryson DeChambeau (-4)
  • Thomas Detry (-4)
  • Patrick Cantlay (-4)
  • Matthieu Pavon (-3)
  • Rory McIlroy (-3)
  • Tony Finau (-3)
  • Hideki Matsuyama (-2)

7. Scottie's scare: Two NFL seasons have been played since the current No. 1 player in the world last missed a cut. He (narrowly) saved it at the end with three consecutive pars following his double at the par-5 5th hole (see above), but it wasn't exactly comfortable. And now, Scheffler will almost assuredly miss out on what would be his sixth win of the year barring a miracle 65-65 finish. He's probably just glad to be playing on Saturday after thinking his week was over.

"I don't think 5-over is going to get me into the weekend," he said. "But I'm proud of how I fought today. I gave myself a good chance. Really, yesterday, I felt like I did a great job. Today, I just couldn't get the putts to fall. This golf course can be unpredictable at times, and maybe it got the better of me the last couple days. I'll sit down and think about where we're going the last few days and figure it out."

8. No rounds in the 70s: One of my favorite major-championship narratives is when a player shoots something in the 80s and something in the 60s but nothing in the 70s. This week's contestant is Sam Bairstow, who went 84-67 in the first two rounds. Eighty-four, sixty-seven!