Bryson's on the charge

Power and finesse a combo at US Open

LEAD: Bryson DeChambeau of the United States lines up a putt on the 17th hole during the second round of the 120th US Open at Winged Foot Golf Club in Mamaroneck, New York

Brian Keogh

It would be crude to describe Bryson DeChambeau's strategy as "bomb and gouge" but the unconventional Californian could care less after he combined brute strength with the touch of a surgeon to grab the early halfway lead in the US Open at a punishing Winged Foot.

As first round pace-setters Justin Thomas, Patrick Reed and Rory McIlroy did battle with a far more demanding test last night, DeChambeau's kamikaze tactics paid off as he overcame tough conditions, finishing with an eagle three to shoot a one-under 69 and set the early clubhouse target at three-under par.

He was one shot clear of Spain's Rafa Cabrera Bello and three ahead of Xander Schauffele and Belgium's Thomas Pieters, fully justifying his determination to hit driver as often and as far as possible and take his chances with a shorter club from the rough.

"I felt like a lot of things were working well for me," said the so-called "Mad Scientist", who hit a respectable seven of 14 fairways in each of the first two rounds.

"I was driving it well, my iron play was impeccable," added the world No 9, who birdied the sixth, then followed a 379-yard drive down the ninth with a 180-yard nine-iron approach to six feet to finish his round in the red.

"When I got into trouble, I wasn't able to get out of it as well today as yesterday, but when I was in the fairway I was able to attack and take advantage, and I finished really well today."

Wedge play has been key for DeChambeau and he admitted that he took advice from six-time US Open runner-up Phil Mickelson on board when they practiced together earlier in the week.

"Phil gave me some great advice. He said when he almost won back in 2006, he said he had the best short game week of his life, so that's just a testament to showing that you have to have a great wedge game out here," he explained.

"I feel like my irons are great, the wedges are better, and short game needs to be worked on just a little bit. But I would say it's been good so far, and that's what I'm going to hopefully do this weekend."

Butch Harmon, whose father Claude was head pro at Winged Foot from 1945 to 1978, slammed the USGA's cautious first round set-up as by far the easiest he'd ever seen at a US Open.

"The hole locations were incredibly easy," he wrote on Facebook. "It was like they set it up for the 'Whalewatchers Scramble' outing. Total joke."

But a combination of a cool north wind, rolled greens and tighter pins positions made life much tougher for the field as the course played more than one shot harder than in round one with the field averaging just over 74.

Cabrera Bello shot 70 to get in on two-under but while Pieters picked up two birdies on the front nine to get to on six-under, he dropped six shots coming home to shoot 74 and slip back to level par alongside Schauffele and Matthew Wolff, who posted rounds of 72 and 74.

Jon Rahm shot 72 to fall back to one-over alongside Bubba Watson, Louis Oosthuizen and Joaquim Niemann while World No 1 Dustin Johnson battle back to one-over with two holes to play after his opening 73 but bogeyed two of his last three holes to shoot 70 and remain very much part of the story on three-over.

As for Ireland's Shane Lowry, he brilliantly birdied two of his last three holes to card a level par 70 and faced a nervous wait after he scrambled his way to the projected cut line at six-over.The Clara man dropped an early shot after a visit to heavy rough at the 11th, his second, birdied the par-five 12th but then dropped shots back to back at the 18th and first to slip to eight-over.

"To be honest, the wind was out of my sails then, and I thought that was it, done," Lowry said of those dropped shots around the turn.

He needed to pick up at least two shots coming in and got them by rolling in an eight footer for a two at the 148-yard seventh before hitting two great shots to the heart of the ninth to set up a two-putt birdie four.

"I was very disappointed in myself yesterday because I played great Tuesday, Wednesday, and I was very happy where my game was at," he said. "I showed that today - 70 in those conditions today is actually pretty good."

The Open champion admitted he's looking forward to getting home after next week's Dubai Duty Free Irish Open after admitted he lost his patience as he shot 76 in the opening round.

"When I start playing bad, I start trying too hard and start getting pretty annoyed out there and I struggle," he confessed. "To be honest, not that I'm making excuses, I've just had a long stint away from home, and I'm just ready to get home at this stage and ready to get back to my family. Hopefully, I get two more days, but if not, I'll get a flight tonight or tomorrow."

Amateur James Sugrue will be heading home disappointed on Monday though a last gasp invitation to join Lowry and Irish team mate Mark Power at Galgorm Castle would cheer him up.

Struggling from the tee, the Mallow man (23) followed his opening 78 with a 79, mixing three birdies with five bogeys and two triple bogey sevens, the first of which came at the opening hole.

"I suppose I was pretty pleased to make a few [birdies]," said the Cork man, who signed off by rifling a 140 yard wedge to six feet and birdie the 18th

"But even from the word go on the first hole, I hit it left, drew a horrendous lie, thought I did well to hack it out of that lie into probably a worse lie, and then went long off the green, and that's just dead."

As for the Irish Open, he'd love the chance to tee it up.

"It would be great to get a start in the Irish Open," he said. "That would be brilliant. I would definitely take up on that offer if it was possible."