Fleetwood and Pepperell were part of a four-way tie for the lead after opening rounds of 67, but while the former slumped to a birdie-free 77 to fall eight shots off the pace, Pepperell’s 69 gave him a halfway total of eight under and a three-shot lead over compatriot Matt Wallace.
France’s Julien Guerrier was also five under with three holes remaining when play was suspended yesterday evening due to darkness.
“I’m really excited because I do think I can really improve my long game over the weekend and if I can do that then I want to take the mindset of dominating the event, because why shouldn’t I?” Pepperell said after a round containing five birdies and two bogeys.
“I’ve got to be aggressive, keep trying to play the shots and I don’t think there is anything to be afraid of for sure. Get the speed of the greens and hole some putts and it’s all going to be rosy but we will see, there’s definitely some good players up there who can challenge for certain.”
Pepperell won his first European Tour title in Qatar earlier this season and has also recorded two runners-up finishes and tied for sixth in the Open at Carnoustie, despite playing the final round with a hangover.
A 78 in the third round of the US Open is the only time Fleetwood has posted a higher score this season and he will be hoping he bounces back in the same manner, a closing 63 at Shinnecock Hills equalling the championship record and seeing him finish just a shot behind winner Brooks Koepka. “I just had a nightmare on the greens really,” Fleetwood said.
“I basically three-putted 11, 12 and 13 and literally had no idea what the break was going to do or the wind. I never once got it right.”
Tournament host Justin Rose safely made the halfway cut after a 72 left him on two over par.
Matt Fitzpatrick is six shots off the lead, after a round of 73, four shots better than his fellow Sheffielder Danny Willett. Woodsome Hall’s Chris Hanson netted four birdies in 14 holes before play was suspended.