PINEHURST, N.C. – When the USGA released its groupings for the first and second rounds of the U.S. Open, Brendon Todd and Chris Kirk had reason to smile.
The pair were roommates for four years at the University of Georgia and share an instructor in Scott Hamilton. Both live in the Atlanta area and regularly play practice rounds together, including twice this week at Pinehurst No. 2. They also played the first two competitive rounds together alongside fellow Georgia alum Russell Henley.
The familiarity paid dividends for both players – especially Todd. Making his first U.S. Open start, the 28-year-old shot a bogey-free 67 Friday, sits at 4 under for the championship, and will play alongside Martin Kaymer in Saturday’s final pairing.
“Chris and I are really good friends, and I think our games feed well off each other,” Todd said. “We’re both working with the same teacher, we’re hitting the ball straight, chipping and putting well. So I think it was good to see that constant reinforcement from each other.”
While he failed to keep pace with Todd, Kirk is firmly in contention after rounds of 71 and 68 left him in a tie for 10th at 1 under.
“It was great. I felt very relaxed out there the last few days, and I hope he did too,” said Kirk, who is playing his first U.S. Open since 2009. “It was definitely a benefit for Brendon, Russell and I to all be good friends, and having each other around just made it a little easier.”
Todd notched his maiden PGA Tour win last month at the HP Byron Nelson Championship, but since then he has shown no signs of a hangover. He followed that victory with a tie for fifth at Colonial and then a tie for eighth at the Memorial in his most recent start.
“I think I learned a lot with that win, that when I play well, I can contend out here,” Todd said. “The things that got me playing well to win, I’ve been able to keep doing.”
Although he will begin the third round alone in second place, Todd faces a formidable task in chasing down Kaymer, who has carved out a six-shot lead after consecutive rounds of 5-under 65.
“Kaymer’s performance has been incredible. He’s playing a brand of golf that we haven’t seen probably in a long time, since maybe Tiger,” Todd said. “We’re going to go out and do our best…and hope he doesn’t play his best brand of golf.”