Rickie Fowler's charge into contention Saturday at the U.S. Open included five birdies as part of a sparkling 67 that has him in a tie for second with Erik Compton, five shots behind leader Martin Kaymer.
Fowler's final birdie, at the 186-yard par 3 17th, required both a tactical plan and a flair for the dramatic.
Fowler took note on the tee when playing partner Steve Stricker hit a 6-iron downwind, a shot that landed a touch long without enough spin to hold the green. So, with the pin in the back right corner, Fowler opted to hit a cut on a 7-iron.
"I probably hit about a 10- or 15-yard cut," Fowler said. "I was aiming left and really trying to work it. Being downwind, the cut's going to help hold it up in the air and let it come down a little softer than a draw would. … It hit our [yardage] number perfectly."
That was half the battle. But then as Fowler was lining up his for-birdie putt, Ian Poulter sent a charge through the grandstand at the nearby 16th green with a birdie. Still, Fowler didn't hesitate after hearing the roar.
"Sometimes I back off, sometimes I don't," he said. "I just thought it would be kind of cool to get a roar going back to 16."
His putt fell. The roar came.
With tricky pin placements Saturday and a firmer and faster course, Fowler still had a sense that a round in the mid- to high-60s was attainable.
"With control of the golf ball it is," he said. "You definitely have to stay away from making big numbers."
Fowler's biggest number was a 5, a bogey on the 11th.
Speaking of big numbers…
Four players could not break 80 on Saturday. At least one player wishes he shot 80.
The wheels came off for Toru Taniguchi, who made a triple-bogey and four doubles en route to an 18-over 88. It's remarkable considering that Taniguchi, 46, shot 72-73 to make the cut and has won 19 times on the Japan Tour.
Dare to dream
A two-over 72 dropped Phil Mickelson into a tie for 30th, 12 shots behind Kaymer. "If I play well [Sunday], hopefully I can get it to around even and finish second again," he joked.
Mickelson, who has six second-place Open finishes, used the word "interesting" to describe the Saturday setup.
"The pins were very difficult," he said. "The only birdie pin I thought was [on] 18. But the greens were receptive; it wasn't unfair."