Southampton (United States) (AFP) – US Open officials tried Sunday to put the brakes on Shinnecock Hills, where world number one Dustin Johnson led a quartet of leaders into the final round of the year’s second major.
Johnson was no surprise atop the leaderboard — he took a four-stroke lead into Saturday’s third round.
But as sunshine and wind dried the course, the 2016 US Open winner came back to the field with a seven-over 77, tied with defending champion Brooks Koepka, Daniel Berger and Tony Finau.
Berger and Finau, playing in more benign early conditions, made up 11 strokes to put themselves in the final group on Sunday.
They were to tee off at 2:24 pm (1824 GMT) with just four shots separating 15 players.
In its daily statement on course set-up, the US Golf Association said “appropriate levels of water” were applied to all putting greens overnight and Sunday morning “for turf health and firmness.”
Officials said they aimed to have the greens playing at speeds similar to those in round one, when they made accommodation for expected high winds.
England’s Justin Rose was alone in fifth, one shot off the lead. The world number three, who could unseat Johnson atop the rankings with a victory, said Saturday’s conditions — which saw Shinnecock’s greens grow progressively slicker — were mentally taxing.
“We came off pretty much shell-shocked,” Rose said. “You feel like you’re the only one making mistakes.
“Clearly you’re not. You always look at the leaderboard and see everyone’s struggling. It’s hard mentally to keep it together.”
Rose, the 2013 US Open champion, was in the same spot going into the final as he was at Merion that year — one shot off the lead.
With Shinnecock posing a similar challenge — with it’s long rough and lightning greens — Rose was well aware of what would be required on Sunday.
“On this golf course, it’s patience, it’s commitment, it’s choosing your times to be aggressive,” said Rose, who was to tee off at 2:02pm alongside Sweden’s Henrik Stenson and right before Koepka and Johnson (2:13pm). “You just have to play great golf out here.”