When the third round of the U.S. Open began, Daniel Berger and Tony Finau were little more than an afterthought. They were 7-over par, 11 shots off the lead and playing in the morning when no one was paying much attention.
That all changed on a crazy Saturday at Shinnecock Hills Golf Club. And when the final round begins on Sunday, Berger and Finau will be playing in the last group of the day, each trying to win their first major championship under considerably more scrutiny.
Berger and Finau began their third round before 11 a.m. New York time—well before the winds picked up and the greens dried out—and took advantage of their opportunities. Each posted a 66, leaving them at 3-over 213, and spent the rest of the afternoon watching as the field crept closer and closer to them.
“This is what we practice for,” Finau said. “Put ourselves in contention and just in a good position going into Sunday. Just to have that opportunity. I barely made the cut. I’m really happy with where I’m at.”
If either Berger or Finau win, they would match Lou Graham (1975) for the largest come-from-behind victory in the final 36 holes of the championship.
The four-way tie for the lead occurred when Dustin Johnson three-putted the final hole to shoot a 77. Johnson started the day with a four-shot lead, but he made a double bogey on the second hole and shot 41 on the front. He needed 38 putts, a total exceeded by only two players.
The other player sharing the lead is defending champion Brooks Koepka, who shot 72. Koepka and Johnson, two best friends and workout buddies, will play in the penultimate group on Sunday. Koepka will try to become the first player to win back-to-back U.S. Open titles since Curtis Strange in 1988-89.
The constant winds dried out the greens and left many of the more aggressive hole locations almost unreachable. It led to the field’s third-round scoring average of 75.328.
“This afternoon was very tough, with wind blowing 20 and a lot of crosswind,” Koepka said. “The ball was running out so far on these greens and some of these putts, there’s just no grass around the hole, so it’s hard to stop it. Especially when you get it downhill, downwind, you have no chance of stopping it.”
Australia’s Marc Leishman began the day at 3-over but could never gather any momentum and struggled like many in the field, shooting an 8-over 80. He will enter the final round tied for 33rd. After shooting a 2-over 35 on his front nine, Leishman made two bogeys to begin his second nine but then righted the ship with three consecutive pars, from Nos. 12-14. Leishman had a disappointing finish to his day, playing his final four holes in 4-over, including a double bogey on No. 15 and bogeys on Nos. 16 and 18.
New Zealander Ryan Fox is tied for 23rd with 18 holes to play, at 9-over, while Tim Wilkinson is tied for 61st, alongside Ross Fisher and Rickie Fowler among the 67 players who made the cut.
Justin Rose shot 73 and is one shot back of the leaders at 4-over 214 and Henrik Stenson shot 74 and stands at 5 over. The three-way tie for seventh at 6 over includes Masters champion Patrick Reed (71), Jim Furyk (72) and Kiradech Aphibarnrat, who also played in the morning and shot 68.
“The greens aren’t running perfectly smooth in the first place,” Stenson said. “But then in the afternoon they get crusty and baked. It’s like glass around the hole. You can barely touch some of the putts going downhill.”
Five-time major champion Phil Mickelson was involved in controversy during his round of 81, the highest he had ever scored during a major. Mickelson took a 10 at the 13th hole, a score that included a two-shot penalty for striking a moving ball. After missing from 20 feet and watching his putt sail past the hole and headed toward the slope, Mickelson rushed to the rolling ball and slapped it back toward the hole in violation of the rules.
“Look, I don’t mean disrespect to anybody,” Mickelson said. “I know it’s a two-shot penalty. At that time, I just didn’t feel like going back and forth and hitting the same shot over. I took the two-shot penalty and moved on.”
The USGA said it did not discuss disqualifying Mickelson for the violation.
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