PEBBLE BEACH, CALIFORNIA – Gary Woodland hit a shank and a chunk and both times made par, and he made a birdie from a deep divot in the fairway. Such moments, even on a Saturday, can go a long way toward winning a U.S. Open.
Even better for Woodland was a 2-under 69 — and just two bogeys over 54 holes at Pebble Beach — for a one-shot lead over Justin Rose.
“I worked for this my whole life,” Woodland said. “I know what it takes to win. And my game is in a great spot. I’m at a beautiful golf course. I came here to win, and that’s what we’re going out to do tomorrow.”
He’s not alone in that thinking.
Rose was right where he wanted to be after working more short-game magic from bunkers and thick grass and awkward spots around greens that were getting a little firmer and faster, even under another day of thick marine layer that has blanketed the Monterey Peninsula all week. He has 34 one-putt greens through 54 holes, the last one an up-and-down from the bunker for birdie on the par-5 18th for a 68 that put him in the final group.
“One back gives me the freedom to feel like I’ve got everything to gain, nothing to lose,” said Rose, the 2013 U.S. Open champion at Merion. “I’m not chasing, really. I’m so close to Gary that I have to go out and play my game tomorrow.”
Brooks Koepka thinks he can win because no one has been winning majors like him in the last two years. He played bogey-free for a 68, settling for par when he made a bold attempt to slash a fairway metal around a cypress on the 18th hole. Four shots behind is close enough for Koepka to have a shot at a record that has stood for 114 years as he tries to join Willie Anderson with a third straight U.S. Open title.
“I feel as confident as ever right now,” said Koepka, words that carry a little more weight from a guy who has won four of his last eight majors.
Standing in the way of all of them is Pebble Beach, a strong enough test that has been missing strong wind, its best defense.
The final hour of the third round gave a glimpse of possibilities, how fortunes can change quickly.
Woodland twice looked as though he were about to lose two shots or more of his lead until chipping in from 35 feet on the par-3 12th hole, and holing a par putt from just over 40 feet on the par-5 14th.
“I’m excited to be where I’m at right now,” Woodland said.
He was at 11-under 202 and with hardly any margin for error against Rose.
IN FIVE EASY PIECES WITH TAKE 5