BROOKLINE, Mass. — The U.S. Open often waits till the ultimate day of its 72-hole crucible to toy with the world’s greatest golfers. But maybe in tribute to the venerable historical past of this yr’s host, vexing circumstances — blustery winds, thick tough and quick greens — started to crush the wills and sap the souls of the gamers 24 hours early on the Country Club exterior Boston.
With an under-par rating a rarity, the highest of Saturday’s third spherical leaderboard was overhauled often. In the top, a handful of this yr’s hottest golfers remained in rivalry, joined by some lesser-known names to arrange what figures to be an entertaining final-round slugfest in opposition to a golf course that one of many co-leaders, Will Zalatoris, known as “an absolute beast.”
Zalatoris’s decided spherical of 67, the bottom on Saturday, left him four-under par for the championship, tied with Matthew Fitzpatrick of England, who shot a two-under par 68. Jon Rahm, the defending U.S. Open champion, squandered a late lead within the spherical to fall one stroke behind Zalatoris and Fitzpatrick.
Rahm had rallied from a stumbling begin in his first 13 holes to make three birdies from the 14th to the seventeenth holes. That moved him to five-under par for the championship.
But Rahm’s drive from the 18th tee dribbled right into a bunker on the left facet of the golf green. Rahm’s first try to clear the bunker’s excessive lip failed, and his ball rolled again into the sand. His subsequent shot landed within the easy-to-find 18th gap entrance bunker. The mixture of errors introduced a messy finish to Rahm’s spherical: a double bogey that dropped him into third place.
Afterward, Rahm stated he misjudged how deep his golf ball had been within the sand, partially as a result of it was getting darkish.
“I had a 9-iron in hand, that’s plenty to get over that lip,” he stated. “Maybe I was trying to get too cute — looking for another birdie.
“But it doesn’t really matter much,” Rahm added. “I’m content where I am and happy with how I played.”
Three golfers had been tied for fourth at two-under par, together with Keegan Bradley, a Vermont native who was roundly cheered by the New England crowd as he walked up the 18th fairway on Saturday. Adam Hadwin of Canada, ranked a hundred and fifth within the males’s world golf rankings, shot a fair par 70 to tie Bradley. Scottie Scheffler, the reigning Masters champion, joined the group after a chaotic, inconsistent spherical.
Zalatoris was one of many few who not often struggled Saturday, with 4 birdies and just one bogey. Even when he badly sliced his final tee shot of the day 35 yards to the appropriate of the 18th fairway, he landed in a hall between a grandstand and one other short-term construction.
Though 224 yards away from the outlet, he had sufficient of a gap to lace a exact lengthy iron into the famed, mammoth bunker that protects the 18th inexperienced. From there, Zalatoris splashed a spinning, gutsy shot from the sand after which sank a six-foot par-saving putt.
Although Zalatoris is simply 25, he’s taking part in in his ninth main golf championship and has already contended for a legacy-defining title a number of occasions. Last month, he misplaced the P.G.A. Championship playoff in opposition to Justin Thomas, and he completed second on the 2021 Masters Tournament. He additionally completed tied for sixth at this yr’s Masters and on the 2020 U.S. Open.
The slim defeats in majors haven’t demoralized Zalatoris.
“I know I’m going to get one,” he stated after this yr’s P.G.A. Championship. “It’s just a matter of time.”
But Zalatoris is aware of the battle in opposition to the Country Club’s devilish, decades-old challenges won’t be gained, solely survived.
“The golf course takes so much discipline and patience,” he stated on Saturday night. “That was the hardest golf course that I’ve ever played. It’s just so easy to compound mistakes out here. Of course, you can do that in major championships in general, but especially this one.”
Zalatoris paused briefly, nodded his head, then repeated: “Especially this one.”
Matching Zalatoris with a robust again 9 was Fitzpatrick, who gained the 2013 U.S. Amateur on the Country Club. Fitzpatrick, who was tied for second coming into the fourth spherical of final month’s P.G.A. Championship, bogeyed his first gap Saturday however shot three-under for the remainder of his spherical.
Fitzpatrick, who’s 27 and ranked 18th worldwide, additionally discovered himself within the sprawling bunker in entrance of the 18th inexperienced late within the third spherical. He had a harder lie and needed to accept bogey.
With about two hours left within the third spherical, it appeared that Scheffler, ranked No. 1, was going to take a commanding lead into the ultimate spherical. Thanks to an eagle from 102 yards on the par-5 eighth gap, Scheffler was three-under par by means of 10 holes and six-under par for the event.
But Scheffler’s tee shot on the brief, downhill par-3 eleventh gap flew over the inexperienced right into a hazard. A clunky chip and one other dicey pitch that trundled 25 toes downhill previous the outlet led to a double bogey. Two flubbed chips on the subsequent gap price Scheffler one other stroke to par. Improbably, that grew to become the primary of three consecutive bogeys that noticed Scheffler tumble from his perch on the prime of the leaderboard.
Only two golfers within the discipline who performed in final week’s inaugural LIV Golf occasion made the reduce to qualify for this weekend’s closing two rounds. Dustin Johnson shot a one-over par 71 on Saturday and is two-over par for the event. Richard Bland shot a 72 Saturday and is four-over for the championship.
The different 11 LIV collection golfers who went dwelling after the opening two rounds had been a mixed 83-over par, the futility highlighted by Phil Mickelson’s 11-over-par end, though Louis Oosthuizen’s six-over par was unpleasant as effectively.
While Bryson DeChambeau and Patrick Reed have but to play a LIV Golf occasion, they’ve dedicated to the collection. Both have been steadily declining on the planet rankings and their performances this week won’t reverse that development. DeChambeau shot 76 on Saturday and is now eight-over for the competitors. Reed shot 75 and is six-over for the event.