One shot back. Jamie Lovemark. Fowler lost his lead with three straight bogeys on the back nine.
Between them all you won't find one victor of a major.
It also featured a budding star in Si Woo Kim, a 21-year-old South Korean who said he is buying a house in Dallas and whose confidence is ratcheting upward following his impressive three-shot win in the Players Championship in May.
"I wish I was about 5 shots better", Stricker said Friday at Erin Hills Golf Club. With wind a nonfactor, a red-number logjam emerged on the first page of the leaderboard with two rounds to play in the second major of the season.
Last year's victor and world number one Johnson, who arrived late in Wisconsin after staying in California for the birth of his second child, added a one-over-par 73 to his opening 75 to finish on four-over 148, three off the cut line.
Six players are at 4-under, including Chez Reavie, the other player to shoot 65.
Then he exited stage left, stopped to sign a couple golf balls for the patrolmen who followed him for the second round, and checked his cell phone as he walked up the hill and toward the locker room for the last time this week.
Casey sandwiched a pair of bogeys around his triple during a four-hole stretch of the back nine. No harm, no foul.
Charley Hoffman, who led the 2017 Masters after the first round, ran to the top of the leader board at 9 under after five birdies in his first eight holes. His second shot drifted off the fairway, third shot was over the green in the fescue.
He added: "It doesn't matter how good you hit it, if you struggle on the greens, there's nothing you can do".
There is no telling what the weekend will bring - starting with the weather, which includes a possibility of thunderstorms that could delay play and make the greens soft again. So there he stood at two under and seemingly out of the picture.
Both players - ranked No. 2 and No. 3 in the world, respectively - put themselves in poor position with bloated opening-round scores: Day a 7-over 79 and McIlroy a 78.
"I was in the hay too much", he said, before adding, "I enjoyed the walk", and, "The golf course is actually really attractive". If I can make four birdies around here, that would be pretty good.
Garcia carded an eagle, three birdies and three bogeys in a roller coaster round. He has never won a major before but is looking poised to do just that this weekend.
"Well, it would change my life", he said.
"Guess what?" he said to his 4-year-old son. I wanted to experience our first U.S. Open more than anything here in our state.
"Show up for the last six holes, anyway", McIlroy said.
Tommy Fleetwood (-7) - With four birdies and two bogeys in Round 2, Fleetwood held steady even though scoring became more tricky late in the afternoon. "I've pictured winning the U.S. Open a lot of times before". But I think with how long the course is and how long the days are, I'm not sure.
It was the second straight year McIlroy missed the cut at the U.S. Open.
"They should be wide enough for me to hit it into", he said. Each day has gotten progressively worse for him in this tournament.
Tommy Fleetwood will try to block out thoughts of the "life-changing" effect of becoming the second English victor in five years in Sunday's final round of the US Open.
The past six majors have been won by first-timers, and that cycle has a good chance to continue.