Saved by a ‘good bo­gey’

Los Angeles Times - - INSIDE BASEBALL - By John Cherwa and Teddy Green­stein john.cherwa@la­times.com Twit­ter: @jcherwa

ERIN, Wis. — By all rights Tommy Fleet­wood should be in the fi­nal group­ing Sun­day with a share of the lead.

At 12 un­der, the English­man had 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, the chip 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, at 11 un­der and one shot be­hind, knows what it would mean if he were to win 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.”

Fan fa­vorite

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.”

Spi­eth’s strug­gles

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 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.”

Com­ing close

Louis Oosthuizen was on his way up the leader­board with six birdies — and then he got to No. 17. He hit his drive in the fes­cue on the left side of the fair­way and had to punch out on the par-four. His third shot made the green and 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 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,” the South African 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.”

Mr. De­pend­able

Talk­ing about his stel­lar 68 Satur­day, Zach John­son, the Cedar Rapids, Iowa, na­tive, cracked: “My mo­ti­va­tion was the Cedar Rapids Gazette, be­cause they came up here when I was tee­ing it up on Satur­day.”

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,” the two-time ma­jor win­ner replied. “I’d re­ally have to pon­der.”

Kamil Krza­czyn­ski Euro­pean Pressphoto Agency

TOMMY FLEET­WOOD chips onto the 18th green help­ing to sal­vage a bo­gey after he putted off the green. Fleet­wood, who is one shot be­hind leader Brian Har­man, said a U.S. Open vic­tory “would change my life.”

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