July 19th, 2024

DeChambeau a one-man show at Pinehurst No. 2, leads U.S. Open by 3

By Doug Ferguson, The Associated Press on June 15, 2024.

PINEHURST, N.C. (AP) – Bryson DeChambeau turned Pinehurst No. 2 into a one-man show Saturday in the U.S. Open.

When he wasn’t smashing eight drives of 340 yards or more, he was getting his right hip worked on between holes. He pumped fists and entertained thousands of sun-baked fans on his way to a 3-under 67 and a three-shot lead going into the final round.

At stake is a chance to capture a second U.S. Open title with a reimagined game – still powerful as ever – and a physique that isn’t quite the “Incredible Bulk” he was at Winged Foot in 2020.

Still ahead is a final round with Rory McIlroy, Patrick Cantlay and Matthieu Pavon three shots behind and all looking capable of giving him a run for the silver trophy.

Corey Conners of Listowel, Ont., is tied for ninth at even par and not out of the hunt. Taylor Pendrith of Richmond Hill, Ont., is tied for 12th at 1 over. Adam Svensson of Surrey, B.C., is tied for 47th at 7 over.

DeChambeau, a runner-up by one shot last month in the PGA Championship with another top 10 at the Masters in April, was at 7-under 203. He is the only player to post three straight rounds of 60s in a U.S. Open at Pinehurst No. 2.

Ludvig Aberg, the super Swede who started the third round with a one-shot lead, fell victim to the slick, domed greens to make a triple bogey on the 13th hole that sent him to a 73 and left him five shots back along with Hideki Matsuyama (70).

DeChambeau said it was “two hips that are not fantastic” from his speed training that led him to ask for a trainer and get worked on in the woods after the 10th hole. He went to the 11th, belted a 347-yard drive, hit wedge safely to the centre of the green and made a putt from just outside 12 feet to become the first player to reach 7 under all week.

With the tee slightly forward on the 13th, he wished aloud to have a go at the green, figured it wasn’t practical and said to the gallery, “Don’t boo me,” as he reached for iron. He missed the fairway into a bunker and sent his approach dancing by the cup.

He missed that six-footer for birdie, but picked up birdie on the 14th and led by as many as four shots. But he wasn’t immune from a big number, just like so many others.

DeChambeau’s shot to the 16th rolled off the front of the green. His chip was too weak and returned toward his previous shot. His next pitch was only slightly better and he missed the putt to make double bogey.

But he answered with a pitching wedge that narrowly cleared the fearsome bunker right of the par-3 17th and holed a 12-foot putt.

Pavon, a winner at Torrey Pines in his first year playing the PGA Tour, joined DeChambeau as the only players to avoid a round over par this week. He saved one par from in front of a wiregrass brush and attached pins when he could in his round of 69.

McIlroy (69) and Cantlay (70), adversaries in the Ryder Cup and in the PGA Tour board room, will be in the penultimate group. They stayed in different ways.

McIlroy began to soar early on the back nine by riding some good putting – a 10-foot birdie on the 12th, a key par save from six feet on the 13th, a wedge to tap-in range on the 14th and another huge par save on the 16th.

But he dropped two shots on the par 3s and was farther back than he would have wanted. Still, it’s a chance. He famously said last year when he was runner-up at the U.S. Open, “I would go through 100 Sundays like this to get my hands on another major championship.”

He’s right there with another chance. And so is Cantlay, who delivered a strong putting performance of his own. Cantlay missed plenty of good birdie chances, but he stayed in the game with five par-saving putts of seven feet or longer.

He also poured in a 20-foot birdie putt on the 17th that kept him in range.

Pinehurst was sweltering for the second straight day, with a heat index near 38 Celsius and brown splotches of grass making the No. 2 course look fast and terrifying.

The third round began with 15 players under par, and it was reduced to eight players going into the final, demanding test of the major that rewards only the cleanest golf.

Collin Morikawa remarkably had a bogey-free round with a 66 that took him from a tie to 51st to just inside the top 10.

No one who played early managed to make a move. The course is so demanding that it exposes anyone not on the top of his game. That includes Scottie Scheffler, the No. 1 player who had to settle for a 71. It was his fourth straight round over par dating to Sunday at the Memorial, the first time he has had a stretch like that in his career.

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AP golf: https://apnews.com/hub/golf

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