Fowler fires 65 as officials put brakes on Shinnecock Hills

Daniel Berger at the 18th green during the third round of the 2018 US Open at Shinnecock Hills Golf Club

Southampton (United States) (AFP) – Rickie Fowler fired a five-under par 65 Sunday as officials took the edge off of Shinnecock Hills for the final round of the US Open.

Fowler, who started the day 13 shots off the lead, posted the lowest round of the tournament, tapping in for birdie at 18.

His round was 19 shots better than the 84 he posted in the third round on Saturday, when scores soared on a course dried out by sunshine and wind.

“That’s the golf course I enjoy playing,” Fowler said. “Obviously, pin placements were a lot safer. The pins today will definitely allow for the greens to firm up and get fast, and we’ll see how much they dry out. It was definitely more receptive this morning than yesterday, that’s for sure.

“I think they did a good job with setup today,” Fowler said. “I don’t think they’ll have any issues.”

Defending champion Brooks Koepka and world number one Dustin Johnson — the 2016 winner — were among four sharing the lead heading into the final round.

They were joined atop the leaderboard by Daniel Berger and Tony Finau — who played early Saturday before the course toughened up and made up 11 shots on overnight leader Johnson to put themselves in the final group.

They were to tee off at 2:24pm (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.”

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. “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.”