SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y. (AP) — The Latest on Sunday’s final round of the U.S. Open (all times local):
Defending champion Brooks Koepka has taken the lead early in the fourth round of the U.S. Open.
With Shinnecock Hills playing much easier than on Saturday, when it was a brutal test that the USGA admitted was unfair to the leaders, Koepka birdied the par-3 second to move to 2 over par.
That put him clear of four players — third-round co-leaders Dustin Johnson, Daniel Berger and Tony Finau — and surging Patrick Reed. The Masters champion birdied his first three holes.
The USGA pledged to ease off the severe conditions at Shinnecock Hills. Rickie Fowler responded with the low round of the U.S. Open.
Fowler tapped in for birdie on the 18th hole for a 5-under 65. If nothing else, he wins most improved. Fowler was 19 shots better than his 84 in the third round, the highest score in his U.S. Open career.
Fowler played with Phil Mickelson, who shot a 69 in his 27th U.S. Open without winning. That included a par on the 13th hole, where on Saturday he swatted a moving ball to keep it from rolling off the front of the green. Mickelson was given a two-shot penalty and made a 10 on the hole. This time he raised his arms in mock triumph.
The U.S. Open won’t be so tough on Sunday with the trophy at stake.
After the third-round conditions prompted complaints from some of the world’s best players, Open officials promised to make things easier at Shinnecock Hills for the final round.
The USGA said overnight watering would reduce green speeds, and hole locations would be set up to be more accessible to players. The moves came after an uproar among players, who felt the course was unfair.
In the last 22 groups on Saturday, no one even matched par-70 on the treacherous layout.
The early results Sunday showed the move was paying off. Rickie Fowler was 5 under through 13 holes and Hideki Matsuyama was 4 under through nine holes.
Phil Mickelson was 2 under after saving par on the 13th hole, where on Saturday he purposely whacked his golf ball back toward the hole as it was rolling off the green for a two-shot penalty. Mickelson raised his arms and began a mock celebration after his par on Sunday.
Happy Father’s Day, Vic Parziale.
Now get to work.
The retired Brockton, Massachusetts firefighter will be spending the day at the U.S. Open, carrying the bag for his son, Matt, in the final round. Matt Parziale earned a spot in the tournament by winning the Mid-Amateur, and then became the first mid-am to make the cut in 15 years.
The Parziales say they don’t usually make a big deal about Father’s Day.
This one is different.
“It’s special,” Vic Parziale said. “It’s the best one ever.”
Both Parziales were firefighters as their real jobs. Matt is on leave from work to play in the Open and a couple of other tournaments. Vic is retired, but quickly found work as his son’s caddie.
He thinks he’s got a future.
“I keep my mouth shut and carry the bag. If he asks me a question, I answer it. I haven’t gotten fired yet,” he said after the third round. “Can’t find anybody cheaper.”
The water hoses were out early Sunday for the final round of the U.S. Open in its attempt to slightly soften Shinnecock Hills.
USGA officials have conceded that wind and dry conditions made the third round tougher than it needed to be. Tony Finau and Daniel Berger started the weekend 11 shots out of the lead. They go into the final day tied for the lead with Dustin Johnson and defending champion Brooks Koepka.
That set the stage for a final round in which 15 players were separated by four shots.
Koepka has a chance to become the first back-to-back winner of the U.S. Open since Curtis Strange in 1989.
Among those playing early was Phil Mickelson, who purposely struck a moving ball on the 13th green Saturday.