By all rights Tommy Fleetwood should be in the final grouping on Sunday with a share of the lead.
He was at 12 under having hit his second shot on the par-five 18th just 47 yards from the pin. But his chip landed short of the green on a ridge, leaving himself an almost impossible putt to hold the green. And he didn’t. It went past the hole and settled at the bottom of a collection area 70 feet away from the hole, all uphill.
Then he perhaps hit his best shot of the round to chip to three feet, leaving him an easy putt for bogey. It was his only bogey of the day to go with five birdies.
“It was a good save,” Fleetwood said. “It was a good bogey. I mean it was a really good round of golf .”
Fleetwood knows what it would mean if he were to win on Sunday.
“It would change my life,” he said. “I’ve pictured winning the U.S. Open a lot of times before. [Thinking about it] all night is not going to help and not make any difference. It’s just concentrate on each day as it comes.”
Next to Wisconsin native Steve Stricker the biggest fan favorite is Rickie Fowler. And he’s definitely in the hunt, two shots back at 10 under. He played his usual steady round with six birdies and two bogeys.
He’s also hoping he can shake the idea that he’s the best player never to have won a major.
“It’s going to be a really cool day for someone tomorrow,” Fowler said. “I’m looking forward to my shot at it and I know it’s not going to be an easy day for sure. I’ve been there a handful of times and had some good finishes. But I’m looking forward to getting the job done.
“But looking and seeing the leaderboard, there are a lot of young guys, a lot of great players. Someone has a very good chance of ending up with their first major tomorrow.”
Tough week for Spieth
Jordan Spieth said he has had an “off putting” week – in both senses.
His position (tied for 59th) fits the definition of “unpleasant, disconcerting, or repellent.”
And it’s largely as a result of his poor putting.
“I've been striking the ball well,” Spieth said. “It's just been trying to figure it out on and around the greens. And I feel like once the cannon gets open, I'll start pouring them in.”
Spieth needed 34 putts to get through 18 holes Saturday, four higher than the field average. The 2015 U.S Open champ shot 76 on a day in which his buddy and longtime junior golf foil Justin Thomas fired a 63.
If you have good control of the golf ball and if you're rolling the ball on the greens,” Spieth said, “you're going to play well here.”
Louis Oosthuizen was on his way up the leaderboard with six birdies — and then he got to 17. He hit his drive in the fescue on the left side of the fairway and had to punch out down the fairway. His third shot made the green and then he three-putted from 35 feet. With a double bogey, a great round became just a good round.
“Four yards to the right with that tee shot and I’m in the fairway,” Oosthuizen said. “I should have gone the safe route. But I was really swinging it well and thought I could give it a little bit more on the tee shot and have a nine-iron into the green.”
Depending how the course sets up on Sunday, it will be a tough task to make it to the top from his position at four under.
“Majors are won on the last nine holes on a Sunday,” Oosthuizen said. “If you’re within four shots on a Sunday at a major playing the back nine, you’ve got a chance of winning it. That’s when all the mental games start playing in your head.”
Talking about his stellar play Saturday at Erin Hills, Zach Johnson, the Cedar Rapids native, cracked: “My motivation was the Cedar Rapids Gazette, because they came up here when I was teeing it up on Saturday.”
That has to be fake news, right?
This is not: Until Saturday, Johnson had never bettered 69 in a U.S. Open round. That seems impossible, given that has played in every Open since 2004 — and given that his playing style is not like Bubba Watson’s, slinging shots all over the yard.
Johnson is as dependable as a John Deere mower: Fairway. Green. Fairway. Green.
So did this feel like your best round, Zach?
“I try to forget about this tournament when I get done with it,” he replied. “I'd really have to ponder.”