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A two shot swing on the final hole of the third round of the US Open has Rickie Fowler and Wyndham Clark tied for the lead at Los Angeles Country Club.
On an afternoon where the US Open venue showed its teeth, those in contention battled on a golf course that was much firmer and tougher than in previous days.
While several in the early wave of players made light work of the venue’s front nine, none of those in contention could open up a gap to the rest of the field.
Instead, it was a moving day where pars were at a premium and bogeys were inevitable.
The final day will see a repeat of Saturday’s final group, but Rickie Fowler looked set to take the solo lead into the final day. Instead, he’s sharing it.
A three putt on the 54th green left Fowler, who stood on the final tee on Saturday night with a two-shot lead, tied with PGA Tour winner Wyndham Clark.
That was also thanks to a stunning final hole birdie from Clark, who almost holed out for an eagle with his approach to the final green, despite visibility being very poor.
On the day, Fowler carded a level-par 70, while Clark went one better with a 69.
Speaking after the round, Fowler was adamant about how much he wants to win.
“It would be huge. It would be great,” he said.
“Especially being here in Southern California, having a lot of people, family and friends that are out here this week.
“We have a chance tomorrow. I mentioned out there after going through the last few years, I’m not scared to fail. I’ve dealt with that. We’re just going to go have fun, continue to try to execute, leave it all out there, see where we stand on 18.”
Meanwhile, Clark, who won this year’s Wells Fargo Championship, said:
“I wanted to be in the final group. Every shot matters out here. And on top of it, we couldn’t see. So just the fact making it when we were kind of just feeling it and didn’t really have the clearest of reads.
“Yeah, there’s a lot of emotion. It’s a U.S. Open and I wanted to be in that final group.”
If you think that the winner is guaranteed to come from that final group, however, you would be incorrect.
Lurking behind are the likes of Rory McIlroy, Xander Schauffele, Dustin Johnson and Scottie Scheffler. The world No.1 always looked just a little too far behind to be a factor in the tournament, until a stunning finish to his round fired him into contention.
The former Masters champ spectacularly holed out for eagle on the 17th hole from the best part of 200 yards, before holing a birdie putt from just outside 20 feet on the 18th to get to a total of seven-under-par.
Eagle on 17. Birdie on 18.
— U.S. Open (USGA) (@usopengolf) June 18, 2023
After his round, Scheffler said:
“You’re nervous whether or not you’re leading or chasing. I want to win the golf tournament. It doesn’t matter what tournament it is. I’m showing up and I want to play good and I want to win.
“Going into tomorrow I’m going to be chasing, but it’s not going feel any different. If I was in the lead it’s just I’m four shots behind instead of four shots ahead or whatever it is. Got to go out there and execute and do the best I can.”
As for Rory McIlroy, the 2011 US Open champion, things were more subdued, as he made three birdies and two bogeys on his way to a one-under-par round. He sits just one shot off the lead.
Speaking after his third round, the Northern Irishman noted how his ball striking was back to near its best.
“Yeah, I feel pretty good. The golf course definitely got a little bit trickier today than the first couple of days. Felt like I played really smart, solid golf. Hit a lot of fairways, hit a lot of greens. Sort of felt somewhat stress free out there, if you can ever call golf at a U.S. Open stress free.
“Overall, yeah, pretty pleased with how today went, and feel like I’m in a good spot heading into tomorrow.”
McIlroy, like many others, certainly is in a good spot, in a major where it feels like around a dozen players stand a good chance of lifting the trophy.
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