England’s Richard Bland chased a dream US Open by taking the clubhouse lead at the start of the second round.
The 48-year-old world number 115 is only competing for the second time and clocked a four-under-67 to set the pace to five-under.
Bland lost his European Tour card two years ago, but fought back and won his first title in his 478th event in May.
Defending champion Bryson DeChambeau is level after a 68 at Torrey Pines, while Rory McIlroy (73) is at one.
“I am very proud,” Bland told Sky Sports.
“Running a major tournament is always pretty special. I tied the lead at the Open in 2017 for one hole, so it’s nice to have it a little longer than that.
South African Louis Oosthuizen is one shot behind Bland after a 71, while two-time Masters champion Bubba Watson mounted a similar charge to the Englishman and his 67s left him twice as fast as world number three Jon Rahm, who got a 70.
Thirty-six players were forced to start early on Friday after fog delayed play on Thursday, meaning their first round had to be over before the second could begin.
American Russell Henley, who completed his first round Thursday to establish the clubhouse lead overnight, is among Friday’s final starters in California.
Italian Francesco Molinari and Spaniard Rafa Cabrera Bello also have late start times and finished the first lap below par.
Phil Mickelson will start fighting to qualify at four points as he continues his search for a career Grand Slam and two-time winner Brooks Koepka starts at two under.
Bland takes inspiration from Mickelson in a fairy tale
After his moving British Masters win, Bland, 48, spoke of the inspiration provided by Phil Mickelson’s recent victory in the PGA United States Championship at the age of 50, before which the American was also ranked 115th. in the world.
“For him to win a tournament like this – he played the best golf, it didn’t go to him – was extremely impressive,” Bland continued.
“At almost 51 years old, this is probably one of the best sporting and golfing achievements of this century.”
Bland, who turned pro in 1996, started day one after two late bogeys spoiled an otherwise impressive lap on Thursday, but he took the lead in the second.
The Staffordshire-born player looked fine after two birdies in the first four holes, then his momentum was somewhat interrupted by two bogeys on either side of two more birdies.
Bland is only making his fourth major appearance and at the very least will make the US Open Cup for the first time after a nerve-less nine back that included three birdies before a bogey in his 17th.
“This is only my second US Open,” Bland explained. “You still have the mentality of not getting too aggressive.
“Maybe I need to be a little more aggressive when I can be. Right now I’m happy where I am.”
English compatriots Matt Fitzpatrick and Tyrrell Hatton hope to perform a similar charge when they start at a sub later on Friday, as will Marcus Armitage when he starts at normal level.
McIlroy once had his own fairy tale at the US Open – when he won the title at just 22 – but the San Diego course turned into a bit of a battleground for the 32-year-old on Friday.
At one point he was only two points off the lead, but three bogeys in a row on the top nine and three more after the turn left him in danger of missing the cut.
The Northern Irishman caught up with two birdies before the close and his two overs could provide a solid platform from which to attack over the weekend. Lee Westwood is in a similar position after a 72 left him on one.