Now, the U.S. Open Starts
18 Jun,2023

Now, the U.S. Open Starts

Ricky Fowler and Wyndham Clark share the top of the leaderboard after three rounds at the 123rd U.S. Open, with two major champions closer than ever. 

"Through three rounds we're in the spot that we want to be in, and tomorrow is when the tournament starts," said Fowler, who, along with Clark, finished at 10-under-par on Saturday, one shot ahead of Rory McIlroy, three in front of Scottie Scheffler, at the North Course of the Los Angeles Country Club. 

Each will be trying to drive a different storyline over the championship's final 18 holes. 

Fowler, winless in four years having worked his way back from 187th in the world a year ago, will be aiming for the heights predicted for him so many years ago. His even-par 70 on Saturday, to go with a record-setting 62 and a record-36 hole score of 130, saw him post three birdies and three bogeys, the last on the final hole to fall back into a tie for the lead. 

"Had to accept some bogeys there in the round early on,' said Fowler, "but I feel like we did a good job of kind of staying present, moving forward, and like I said, still a lot of quality shots.

Clark, who captured his first PGA Tour title last month - an elevated event against the best competition that tour has to offer -  will be trying to take take the next step of his ascension after posting a 1-under-par 69 on Saturday. Clark's birdie on the final hole, after three bogeys over the previous seven holes, drew him back even with Fowler.

"I wanted to be in the final group (on Sunday," said Clark. "Every shot matters out here. ... Yeah, there's a lot of emotion. It's a U.S. Open and I wanted to be in that final group."

McIlroy, a four-time major champion who has been chasing his fifth since 2014, is in position to end that drought after a steady 1-under-par 69 on Sunday. McIlroy posted only two bogeys to go with three birdies in the third round, only one over the final 14 holes. 

"It's been such a long time since I've done it," said McIlroy of winning a major. "I'm going out there to try to execute a game plan, and I feel like over the last three days I've executed that game plan really, really well, and I just need to do that for one more day."

Scheffler, the world's No. 1-ranked player with one major championship on his resume, will be trying to take an even stronger grip on the top of the game just three days prior to his 27th birthday, this after providing the tournament with its biggest bang so far when he holed out an 7-iron shot from 196 yards for an eagle on the 17th hole. 

Scheffler "could not see the ball go in," he said. "but there was a nice crowd there on the grandstand behind the green. I saw where it landed and I thought it would funnel out on to the green and I'd have a look for birdie and then you could see everybody as the noise started to kind of rise, got excited, and then they erupted

Scheffler followed that shot up by rolling in a 20-foot putt on 18 for an eagle-birdie finish that capped a 3-under-par 68 on Saturday. What a difference the final 30 minutes made. 

"I'm standing there on 17 tee and just made another bogey, and I think I was probably 4-under for the tournament and I'm looking up at the board and I'm seven shots back (of Fowler who was 11-under at the time) and I'm thinking maybe I can steal one shot coming in," Scheffler said, "but really I'm just trying to hit the fairway there just to give myself some sort of chance, because if you miss that fairway on 17 I am going to be fighting for par again.

"And then hit a nice drive and the shot goes in and it's a huge boost.

"And then hit another two good shots into 18, nail the putt, and all of a sudden instead of seven shots back I'm only four. So definitely a huge momentum boost going into tomorrow, and hopefully I'll just keep it rolling."

Fowler will be trying to recreate the momentum from the first two days heading into Sunday's final round after his 3 1/2-foot putt for par on 18 lipped out.

"It would be nice for that one to go in," he said. "Really doesn't matter, having the lead, being one back, two back. You're going to have to play good golf tomorrow.

"Bummer to have that one slip away, but tomorrow is a whole new day, and like I said, that's kind of when the tournament really starts."