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Matsuyama falls; Thomas soars with 63

Kyodo, AP

Hideki Matsuyama carded a 1-under-par 71 Saturday to fall into a three-way tie for 14th place after the third round of the U.S. Open, standing six shots behind leader Brian Harman.

Matsuyama, who shot 65 Thursday to come to within two strokes of the lead in eighth place halfway through the tournament at Erin Hills in Wisconsin, rolled in four birdies against three bogeys for a 54-hole total of 6-under 210.

“I couldn’t control my shots in the first half and my putting was bad from the start. My shots got better but then my putting got even worse,” said Matsuyama, who managed two birdies on the front nine but had a bumpy return to the clubhouse with three bogeys and two birdies.

“I still have a chance if I can score well (on the final day Sunday). I will do my best,” he said.

Satoshi Kodaira was tied for 35th place at 1-under 215 and Yusaku Miyazato shared 51st at 2-over 218.

Harman, who shared a four-way lead overnight, sat alone atop the leaderboard at 12-under 204 after a third-round 67. Justin Thomas and Brooks Koepka and Tommy Fleetwood were one each shot behind.

Thomas soared up the leaderboard from 22nd, and all it took was a 9-under 63, the lowest round to par in a major long known as the toughest test in golf. Thomas capped off his record day on the 667-yard 18th hole with the prettiest 3-wood he ever hit, stopping 8 feet away on a green where some players struggled to land a wedge.

He made the eagle to get his name in the record book.

The lead, however, belonged to Harman, who closed with two birdies and three tough pars.

“Yeah, 12 under, I’d have about a 10-shot lead in most Opens,” he said.

Not this one.

Not even close.

Erin Hills again lacked enough wind to be the stern test the U.S. Open wants, and it showed. There were 18 rounds in the 60s on Saturday. Going into the final round, 42 players were still under par.

“Usually when you shoot even in a U.S. Open and you’re one off the lead, you’re not six down afterward,” J.B. Holmes said.

In the 116 previous U.S. Opens, only six players had ever reached 10-under par or better, never in the same tournament. By the end of a wild and wide-open Saturday, five players were double digits under par.

Koepka made three birdies over his last seven holes for a 68.

Rickie Fowler, on the verge of being left behind, rallied with three straight birdies and shot 68. He was 10 under, only two shots behind.

“It’s going to be a really cool day for someone tomorrow,” Fowler said. “I’m looking forward to my shot at it. I’ve been there a handful of times and had some good finishes. But I’m looking forward to getting the job done.”

Thomas finished in style, and it had nothing to do with his hot pink pants. He had 310 yards to the hole when he hit 3-wood that could have led to big trouble if he went too far long or left. “Oh gosh, Jimmy, be good,” he said to caddie Jimmy Johnson when the ball was in the air, and it was close to perfect.

Thomas poured in the eagle to become the 29th player with a 63 in a major championship.

“The finish was awesome. I’d love to have another one of those,” Thomas said.