The USGA tucked several hole locations near the edges of the crowned greens at Shinnecock Hills, and then watched some extraordinary scenes unfold as several players putted their balls off the 15th green. Even USGA CEO Mike Davis admitted the course went over the edge in spots late in the day.
The course, the tournament - everything took a sharp turn Saturday, giving us a wide-open, surprising and unpredictable final round. He finished fourth at U.S. Open previous year and registered a T17 at the 2018 Masters.
Daniel Berger and Tony Finau, who started the third round 11 shots out of the lead, each shot 4-under 66 before Johnson hit his first shot. Johnson headed up to the putting green, where he stayed for almost half an hour, quietly hitting balls as the sun set.
"I felt like I played pretty well", Johnson said. It was a tough test, Davis said, probably too tough this afternoon. Koepka and Johnson, close friends, will play in the penultimate group. "We've all been asking for a real U.S. Open again". Kiradech Aphibarnrat, who shot 68 and was the only other player to post a round under par, pushed his way up the leaderboard and will start Sunday's round tied for seventh and three shots back.
"Is that an apology?" he tweeted. "How can this team keep doing this without consequences".
Mickelson brought plenty of attention to the 13th hole, where anything that ran by the cup was headed off the green. While the miss on No. 18 was substantial, it was nary the only opportunity that passed Fleetwood by on the afternoon. "I made a decision to take the two-shot penalty and move on", he said.
"Today I needed something special to happen to have an outside chance". He added, "I would have liked about 6 mulligans today".
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The U.S. Open is built on difficulty. Those were, supposedly, the best golfers in the field through two rounds. Both had three straight bogeys.
Rose was one shot behind, with Stenson another shot behind.
Stenson capped his four-over 74 with a bogey at 18 and was alone in sixth on 215.
"Be care what you wish for", Rose said.
At the last US Open here, Shinnecock Hills gained notoriety for slick greens that had to be watered between groups. "I haven't gotten fired yet", he said after the third round.
And typical of an old-styled U.S. Open, there were plenty of complaints.
Michelson later exclaimed that he was exhausted of "going back and forth" and re-hitting the same putt, so made a decision to just stop the ball and take the penalty. When is enough enough?
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Not all the statements were verbal.
Mickelson's incident occurred on the 13 green, where he faced a downhill putt of eight metres for bogey.
He was assessed a two-stroke penalty by the USGA and given a 10 for the hole before going on to sign for an 81 and a 17-over total.
Playing alongside Andrew "Beef" Johnston Saturday, Mickelson and his playing partner chuckled about the incident walking to the 14 tee. It's amusing though, when you finish, you always feel like you're going to be just short [of winning]. "I mean, for the most part, we all had to play this afternoon". He is such a long hitter that a fan at the No. 16 tee whispered reverently to a companion, "I just want to hear it". He was levied with a two-point penalty for his impatience and took a ten on the hole. It's my understanding of the rules. "I've had multiple times where I've wanted to do that, I just finally did it".
Johnson carded a 7-over-par 77 but still found himself sharing the lead after surviving brutal conditions as Koepka set himself up for a shot at successfully defending his title. He was back in the lead when everyone around him couldn't hang on.
Finau moved up in the rankings after finishing the opening round +3 at 75. His tee time was 9:40.
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