BROOKLINE, Mass. — Eight players spent time atop the leaderboard, all of them taking kicks, some worse than others, on a US Open course that felt like the toughest test in golf in one afternoon. cool and windy at El Club de Campo.
Saturday was a classic US Open, all about survival.
Will Zalatoris and Matt Fitzpatrick kept the damage to a minimum, giving them another shot at a major championship that’s 18 holes and feels much longer.
Zalatoris, who lost in a PGA Championship playoff last month at Southern Hills, bogeyed just once, an amazing feat on a beast of a Brookline course, for a three-under 67.
“I felt like I shot a 61,” Zalatoris said. “Every time I made a mistake, I was able to get away with it or accomplish something miraculous.”
Fitzpatrick played in the final group of the PGA Championship. Now the 27-year-old from England finds himself on familiar ground at The Country Club, where he won the US Amateur in 2013. He was similarly stable and posted three birdies in his last five holes for a 68.
Most telling: They didn’t make any double bogeys.
That was what knocked defending US Open champion Jon Rahm out of the lead on the last hole. The Spaniard thought he had seen it all, including a shot he backhanded from the base of a tree on the eighth hole, until he took three hits of sand into two bunkers.
Rahm’s first shot from a fairway bunker hit the lip and nearly rolled into his footprint. His next shot found a plugged lie in a greenside bunker, and two putts later he had a 71 and went from 1 forward to 1 back.
Rahm wasn’t upset with his swing on the last hole. In any case, he said that it was getting dark and that he did not realize that his ball had landed in the sand. The USGA sent out the last group at 3:45 pm to maximize television exposure. And maybe he tried to take on too much.
Either way, he wasn’t in the mood to look anywhere but straight ahead.
“I’m 18 holes, and I only have 1 shot back,” he said. “That’s what’s important.”
Zalatoris and Fitzpatrick were at 4-under-par 206, the same 54-hole go-ahead score when the US Open was last at The Country Club in 1988.
It’s not like Rahm has all the rights to the lead role. This Saturday at Brookline was so wild that Rahm was the last of eight players to hold at least part of the lead at any point. Three of them didn’t even finish in the top 10, including two-time Grand Slam champion Collin Morikawa.
Morikawa, who shared the 36-hole lead with Joel Dahmen, had double bogeys on the 7th and 13th holes, and could have had a third after a cut wedge on No. 4, except he made a 25-foot putt for the bogey. He finished with a 77.
Seven of the top 12 players before Saturday made at least one double bogey.
Rory McIlroy was not on that list. His was more of a slow bleed, mostly from a putter that wasn’t behaving. He birdied his round of 73.
All of that, and this US Open was far from over.
“It was one of the toughest days on a golf course I’ve had in a long time,” McIlroy said. “I just needed to put in the effort, and I did it on the back nine. Playing those back nine today at par was a lot of effort, I thought. I just stayed in the tournament. That’s all I was trying to do. Just keep going around “.
After a wild third round, Fitzpatrick was listed as the +330 favorite on Caesars Sportsbook, followed by Zalatoris (+350), Rahm (+400), Scottie Scheffler (+550) and McIlroy (+800).
Twenty-three players were under par in the third round. There are only nine left with 18 holes to go, all of them separated by 3 strokes.
That includes a local star, maybe not the Francis Ouimet variety, but Keegan Bradley is big enough in Beantown to hear his name chanted loudly and proudly as he marched to the 18th hole. A former PGA champion, he called it “probably the highlight of my whole life”.
It gave them reason to rejoice. Bradley responded with passion and birdies, five of them in his last 11 holes for a 69.
He was 2 shots behind Adam Hadwin (70) and Scheffler. McIlroy was 3 behind along with Sam Burns (71) and Dahmen, who didn’t birdie his round of 74 but stayed in the game because he didn’t make any big mistakes.
The average score was 73.5 and only seven players broke par. Denny McCarthy made the cut at number 3 over par. He finished his 68 before the leaders even entered the field. At the end of the day, he was tied for 11th, 5 shots behind.
The US Open played as such.
“I knew it was going to be tough,” Dahmen said. “I didn’t know it was going to be so difficult.”
Associated Press contributed to this report.