Koepka Lurks Ominously Behind Woodland and Rose at US Open

By: | Sun 16 Jun 2019 | Comments


Justin Rose produced one of the best battling rounds of his career to go into the final round of the US Open at Pebble Beach just one shot behind American Gary Woodland. Ominously, however, Brooks Koepka, looking to win the tournament for the third year on the trot, lurks just four adrift, ready to pounce should Rose or Woodland slip up.

The Englishman finished his round in style, holing a birdie putt at the final hole to move to 10 under par. World number one Koepka is three further back with Chez Reavie and Louis Oosthuizen at seven under par.

Rory McIlroy birdied the last to card a one-under 70 and reach six under. Fellow Northern Irishman Graeme McDowell, who won when the event was last held here in 2010, holed an eagle putt at the last to improve his score to four under. He is alongside England's Danny Willett , whose 67 was the best score of the day. Masters champion Tiger Woods had a frustrating day. He had five birdies but also recorded five bogeys and is level par.

Dustin Johnson looked like he was going to make a serious move when he birdied the third and fourth holes, but dropped shots saw him finish the day on two under, alongside Open champion Francesco Molinari. 

At one point during the third round Woodland extended his overnight lead from two to four strokes but Rose refused to go away even though he found a series of bunkers.

Koepka missed numerous birdie opportunities to close the gap but still recorded a 68 and said he is looking forward to attempted to win his fifth major.

In a dramatic few minutes, Woodland saved par with a chip-in at the par-three 12th, while Rose birdied the same hole. Up ahead, Koepka holed a massive putt to save par at the 15th and keep his round on track. Woodland holed a 40-foot putt to save par at the 14th, but Rose stepped up to close the gap to two with a birdie. Woodland, who had only his second bogey in three rounds at the eighth on Saturday, missed a birdie putt at the last and then saw Rose sink his own effort to move within one stroke of the lead.

"The harder the shot, the better I played. I stepped up on certain occasions,” said Rose. "I haven't had my A game all week, might not have it tomorrow, and Sunday might be that kind of day where you have to be as mentally strong as you can."

Woodland is looking to win the first major of his career having never finished inside the top 20 at the US Open. To date, his best finish in a major came at  last year's US PGA Championship, where he tied for sixth after holding the halfway lead.

The 35-year-old, who has won three PGA Tour titles, says he is "excited with where my game is at”. "You are at a major and leading after three days," he said. "I'm very comfortable with my game and here at Pebble Beach."

Kopeka knows that he will need to putt better if he is to become only the second player to win three successive US Opens and the first since Scotland's Willie Anderson between 1903 and 1905. "I just enjoy the pressure of having to hit a good golf shot or make a putt when you need to," said the American, who is seeking a fifth major title in his past nine starts. "Just stay patient. If you are within three shots on the back nine, anything can happen, so hang in there and keep fighting."

McIlroy carded three birdies and two bogeys in his round of 70 to leave himself with an outside chance of claiming a first major since 2014 but he will almost certainly need to shoot a 64 or 65 today to pull it off. "Even though I'm still a few off the lead, it's a wonderful opportunity for me to go out there and I guess try to add to my major tally," he said. "I've been very pleased with how I've played all week. I felt for the most part I did the right things and I need to do 18 more holes of that, but just get a little bit more out of the round. I'm expecting the conditions to be similar, but I could see the course just getting a little firmer and a little faster and just being a touch trickier."


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