BROOKLINE, Mass. – Summer gave way to fall on Saturday as a front moved in on Beantown and left players in the third round of the U.S. Open at The Country Club scrambling to stay warm and struggling to stay relevant on the leaderboard.
After basking in sunshine and temps in the 70s and 80s most of the first two rounds, the sky turned gray; temps dipped into the low 60s; and winds were steady at 15 mph, gusts at 20 mph and there were occasional blasts exceeding 30 mph.
And come Sunday for the final round? It’s going to be wicked cold.
“This is how a U.S. Open should be,” Justin Thomas said after a 73. “It’s very difficult. Par is great score on a lot of holes. Bogeys aren’t going to kill you. We don’t do this very often, and I think it’s very, very fitting and totally acceptable to have this kind of test and this difficult setup for a U.S. Open, and it’s strictly because of conditions.
“The greens are getting firm. It’s windy, and it should be tough.”
There was a lot of turbulence on the leaderboard, too. When the day broke, 23 players were under par. When the final putt was hit, nine were.
The scoring average was just shy of 73.50; about 0.75 strokes higher that the first round and 1.50 higher than the second round. Some of the game’s best players took a beating, including Collin Morikawa, who went from the overnight lead to a tie for 17th with a 77. U.S. Open champion in 2020, Bryson DeChambeau, shot 76. Two-time U.S. Open champion Brooks Koepka, Xander Schauffele and Patrick Reed each shot 75.
Scottie Scheffler plays his shot from the first tee during the third round of the U.S. Open golf tournament. (Photo: Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports)
“That was brutal,” Will Zalatoris said. And he shot the low round of the day, a 3-under-par 67 to put him atop the leaderboard with Matt Fitzpatrick. “It took a lot of discipline today. We didn’t aim at a single flag even with some wedges just because you really only have a foot or two to deal with on these greens in some situations. Normally guys out here when they have wedges in their hand, they’re firing at pins no matter what the situation was, but it’s just a lot of patience and giving myself as many 15- to 25-footers as I could.”
Zalatoris said there were huge changes from the days before, pointing out that he had 312 yards to the green for his second shot on the par-5 14th in the second round and, because of the wind, had just 258 on Saturday.
“This place is a beast,” he said. “I think the biggest thing for me (Sunday), obviously, there’s a ton of major champions on this leaderboard, and by no means is the job done. Not even close. But just keep doing what I’m doing. Make sure I just get myself on the green as fast as I can or at least minimize the mistakes.”
The world’s best player wasn’t immune from the conditions as Scottie Scheffler went four consecutive holes without making a par or better for the first time since the second round of The Players in March. The Masters champion and winner of three other tournaments this year shot 71 and is two back.
“There’s a lot of trees on this golf course, and it’s gusty, as well. So it’s definitely unpredictable,” Scheffler said of the wind. “I think that’s what happens when you get these kind of foresty golf courses, and then with the gusts, I mean, that little golf ball is just getting thrown around all over the place.”
Fitzpatrick put on sun cream before the round.
“I was thinking, oh, it’s going to get nice and warm, but quite the opposite by the end of the day,” he said after his 68. “The wind was strong. Wind was really strong. It made it tough. You had to be switched on with the way you were hitting it, where you were missing it.
“I think that was why it was a great challenge, and really happy with my score.”
Anybody will be happy with a 68 in the final round. The high is forecast to be in the high 50s, winds will be steady and gusting with strength (making it seem colder) and sunshine is not in the forecast.
“You can’t play defensive on this golf course. You almost have to play aggressively defensive,” Zalatoris said. “You’ve got to be hitting a lot of shots towards the middle of the greens. Still no cakewalks. 9-, 8-, 7-irons into this place, you can make a mess real fast.
“It’s just going to be really tough tomorrow.”