U.S. Open golfers hear wildlife at nearby Playboy Mansion

The No. 14 tee is tucked into the northwest corner of the Los Angeles Country Club, hugging a tall fence covered with pink climbing roses.

While golfers weigh whether to muscle over or lay up in front of three cavernous bunkers that rudely seal off the fairway halfway to the pin 628 yards away, their focus is interrupted by a cacophony from behind the wall.

Cockatoos wail. Monkeys screech. Peacocks honk and cry. They are the last remaining birds and primates from Hugh Hefner’s 45-year ownership of the 5-acre Playboy Mansion compound.

“You can hear the monkeys almost every time you go back there,” Patrick Cantlay said. “There’s a bunch of other wildlife that you can hear occasionally.”

Billionaire Daren Metropoulos purchased the Holmby Hills estate from Hefner in 2016 — Hefner died a year later — and has done extensive renovations, including destroying the famous grotto only a short chip from the 13th green.

Metropoulos kept the garden zoo intact, however, and its inhabitants produce a soundtrack heard by anyone playing a round.

For Wyndham Clark, it’s been an upbeat tune. He’s birdied No. 14 two days in a row en route to a nine under par 64-67 that leaves him one shot behind leader Rickie Fowler. On Friday, it took an impressive chip and one-putt for Clark to record the birdie.

“That up-and-down obviously was very risky,” he said. “I just felt like I kind of manned up and hit the shot, and then obviously making that putt was huge.”

Clark and Rory McIlroy — who is eight under with a 65-67 in a quest for his first major win since 2014 — took advantage of early tee times, adroitly sticking the ball on greens moist from misty, overcast conditions. The sun broke through just about the time afternoon groups began rounds.

Fowler made eight birdies a day after setting a U.S. Open record with 10. But he also bogeyed six holes to finish at 68 with a two-day score of 130. Fowler and Xander Shauffele on Thursday tied the record for low round in a major with eight-under 62s, and Shauffele followed three consecutive bogeys with birdies on the last two holes to finish even with McIlroy at 132.

“Having a lead right now doesn’t really mean much,” Fowler said. “It’s a little different once you get to 54 holes because that’s when things really heat up.”

The sizable gallery chanted Fowler’s name as he approached the 18th green.

“The fans have been great here,” he said. “I’m looking forward to the weekend. It’s been a while since I’ve felt this good in a tournament, let alone a major. It’s going to be a challenge, but I’m definitely looking forward to it.”

The tournament is over for several top names. It took a two-over 142 to survive a cut line of 66 golfers, and Valencia native Max Homa didn’t make it. Neither did three former U.S. Open winners: Jordan Spieth, Justin Rose and Martin Kaymer.

Phil Mickelson, who hasn’t won the U.S. Open despite finishing second six times, also missed the cut. He has won the other three majors and needs a U.S. Open win to become the sixth player to record a majors Grand Slam.

Player comments about the course remained mostly respectful. However, LIV Golf’s Brooke Koepka, ever the contrarian, said a winning score at any self-respecting U.S. Open should be “around par,” which is where he is after shooting 71-69, nine shots off the lead. So far, 19 golfers are under par and another 10 are even par.

“I’m not a huge fan of this place,” Koepka said. “I think there’s some spots that no matter what you hit, the ball just ends up in the same spot. I think it would be more fun to play on just like a regular round than it would be a U.S. Open. I mean, there’s, what, two eights yesterday? That doesn’t happen.”

Happen it did. Just not for Koepka, who perhaps was distracted by memories of the only other time he played at LACC.

“I played this course in college before they redid it and [the Playboy Mansion] that was the only thing I remembered from it,” he said on a podcast. “The golf course wasn’t that bad, I couldn’t remember any of the holes, I just remembered the Playboy Mansion was on it.

“And it’s a damn shame you can’t even see it, because, God, that could have been fun.”