Kaymer leads by five going to Sunday
It would be a lie to say Pinehurst No. 2 “finally” reared its proverbial ugly head on Saturday. It’s been a difficult course all week, but during the third round of the U.S. Open, there were some victims it hadn’t claimed yet who couldn’t escape its jaws.
Of the 67 players who competed Saturday, two players shot under-par for their rounds, and after leader Martin Kaymer dropped two shots to par to finish the day at 8-under, the tournament looks a little more open to everyone.
Still in the lead, Kaymer had five bogeys on Saturday after having just one in his first two rounds, balanced out by a spectacular eagle on hole No. 5 after driving into the native grass and a fist-pumping birdie on No. 18.
“I made a couple bad swings on the first nine, put myself in bad positions, but I only made bogey, which is OK,” he said. “Only one birdie and one eagle, so I’m happy. 8-under par after three rounds is a good score.”
A couple players played their way into the top few names on the leaderboard. Rickie Fowler and Erik Compton both shot 67s, the best rounds of the day, to pull within five shots of Kaymer and sit in a tie for second place.
Fowler had five birdies and putted just 24 times, best in the field for the day in the latter category, despite having a rough day with the driver. He’ll be in the final pairing today with Kaymer.
“I’m happy to be under par,” Fowler said. “It was a grind out there today. Kind of minimized mistakes when I was in trouble, and actually made some good swings in bad spots.”
Compton went 5-under in a seven-hole stretch in the middle of his round to help him to his best position of the tournament in just his second major appearance - he missed the cut in the 2010 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach.
The sectional qualifier who’s had two heart transplants in his life is in contention at a major championship on Sunday.
“It was just a good, solid day,” Compton said. “Just really, really happy to be here. I’m taking really tight lines off the tee and swinging hard. When you’re doing that, it’s pretty fun.”
Henrik Stenson and Dustin Johnson shot even-par 70s to stay at 2-under, while Brandt Snedeker shot a 72 to fall to 1-under. Matt Kuchar (71), Brooks Koepka (72) and Kevin Na (73) all sit at even-par for the tournament.
Several of the 13 players who were under par after 36 holes dropped shots. Among them were Rory McIlroy, who shot a 74 to drop to 3-over for the tournament, and Brendon De Jonge, who bogeyed four of five holes on the back nine to shoot a 73 and fall to 1-over overall.
“(The course) is very tough,” McIlroy said. “And I’m sure they wanted to do that seeing the scores from the last couple days. Some of the pin positions were a lot tricker than we’ve seen the first two days. It was a real tough test, a real test of patience, a test of if you’re going to miss shots, miss it in the right place.”
But perhaps none dropped as severe and as disappointing as Brendon Todd, whose 79 moved him from solo second place after round two to a tie for 30th after round three. He said putts not dropping weighed heavy on other parts of his game.
“I felt like I hit it really good through six holes, and the putts didn’t go in,” he said. “Because of that then I feel like that sort of weighed down on my ball-striking a little bit, and it made it difficult to get back going the right way.”
Other potential contenders like Jordan Spieth (72), Chris Kirk (72), Francesco Molinari (72), Hideki Matsuyama (74) and Keegan Bradley (76) shot themselves perhaps too far out of contention. There were even 88s to be had on Saturday, as Toru Taniguchi shot an 18-over par, the worst round of the tournament.
But based on Saturday’s results, you never know who might pull themselves into the hunt.
So, unsurprisingly, the 2014 version of the U.S. Open will enter its final day with just six guys under par for the tournament. Fowler warned the field would have be a little patient on Sunday, because, as Saturday showed, bogeys are out there.
“You definitely have to stay away from making big numbers,” he said. “Bogeys are going to happen. We have to be patient and play safe some lines at times. There’s only a few times where you can get aggressive and actually try and make birdies here.”