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Fitzpatrick and Zalatoris lead ahead of final day

2022-06-19 HKT 08:12
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  • Matt Fitzpatrick birdied three of the last five holes at The Country Club but a closing bogey left him level with Will Zalatoris. Image: Shutterstock
    Matt Fitzpatrick birdied three of the last five holes at The Country Club but a closing bogey left him level with Will Zalatoris. Image: Shutterstock
England's Matt Fitzpatrick and American Will Zalatoris, each chasing his first major title, shared the lead late in Saturday's third round of the US Open as brisk wind and brutal rough tormented golf's top stars.

Fitzpatrick birdied three of the last five holes at The Country Club but a closing bogey left him level with Zalatoris, last month's PGA Championship runner-up, on four-under par 206 through 54 holes.

Zalatoris, also last year's Masters runner-up, fired a three-under par 67 while Fitzpatrick, the 2013 US Amateur winner at The Country Club, fired a 68.

The Country Club bared its teeth in formidable conditions to humble defending champion Jon Rahm, four-time major winner Rory McIlroy, top-ranked Masters champion Scottie Scheffler and two-time major winner Collin Morikawa.

"I knew it was going to play hard and I just needed to stay patient," Zalatoris said. "I knew if I make an early bogey or two, don't change the game plan, don't try to get extra aggressive because that's how you make a mess of it."

Spanish world number two Rahm stumbled with bogeys at the par-3 second plus eight and 13 to stand on 2-under but sank a seven-foot birdie putt at the par-5 14th and a 29-foot birdie putt at 15 to match the clubhouse co-leaders.

American Keegan Bradley, the 2011 PGA Championship winner, and Canada's Adam Hadwin shared fourth on 208 with American Scheffler at 2-under through 17.

Scheffler, seeking his fifth title of the year, endured amazing extremes, holing out for eagle from 101 yards at the par-5 eighth for a two-stroke lead as the crowd roared only to double bogey the par-3 11th and follow that with three consecutive bogeys before a three-foot birdie putt at 17.

Northern Ireland's world number three McIlroy endured nightmare putting with three bogeys and a short birdie miss in the first six holes. He made a 12-foot birdie putt at 11 only to find rough and a bogey 12, falling back to 1-under.

American Morikawa, a 36-hole co-leader at 5-under, went bogey-double bogey at six and seven and again at 12 and 13, falling to 1-over.

Fitzpatrick, the 2013 US Amateur winner at The Country Club, could match Jack Nicklaus as the only players to win the US Amateur and Open on the same course, Nicklaus doing it at Pebble Beach.

After an opening bogey, Fitzpatrick sank a 10-foot birdie putt at the fifth, drove the par-5 eighth in two for a tap-in birdie and answered a bogey at 10 with birdies at 14, 15 and 17, the longest an eight-footer at the penultimate hole.

But he found a bunker at 18 and missed a 21-foot par putt.

Zalatoris barely avoided disaster himself on 18, a tee shot right into trampled rough and second into a bunker answered with a great third shot and par putt from just outside five feet to end his round.

"That was brutal," Zalatoris said. "It took a lot of discipline. 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.

"It was just a lot of patience and giving myself as many 15- to 25-footers as I could, and a couple happened to go in and it felt pretty good."

Zalatoris, in only his ninth major start, sank a 40-foot birdie putt at the par-3 second, a 15-footer to birdie the fourth and answered his lone bogey at the seventh with birdie putts from 19 feet at nine and five feet at 15 before his narrow escape at 18.

"This place is a beast," Zalatoris said. "When I played during the Am in 2013 I said this was the hardest golf course that I had ever played. It's just so easy to compound mistakes out here.

"The biggest thing for me tomorrow, 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." (AFP)