LOS ANGELES — Rickie Fowler made his biggest birdie when no one expected it with a 70-foot putt. Wyndham Clark responded with a bold play for a birdie on the last hole to catch him Saturday and set the stage for a dynamic conclusion to the U.S. Open.
Fowler looked to have his first 54-hole lead in a major until he missed a 3½-foot par putt on the final hole at Los Angeles Country Club and settled for an even-par 70. Clark was reeling after his third bogey on the back nine, but drilled his approach at a tight pin on the 18th to 6 feet for a birdie and a 69.
Fowler said Saturday’s round was “a little bit of a grind.”
“Had to accept some bogeys there in the round early on, but I feel like we did a good job of kind of staying present, moving forward, and like I said, still a lot of quality shots,” he said. “Through three rounds we’re in the spot that we want to be in, and tomorrow is when the tournament starts.”
The final hour saved what had been a stale atmosphere among the glitz of L.A., with just about everyone playing a part.
Rory McIlroy had two quick birdies and stayed in the hunt with a 69, leaving him 1 shot behind the co-leaders. He will play in the penultimate group with Scottie Scheffler, the No. 1 player in the world who finished eagle-birdie for a 68.
This wasn’t just any eagle. He holed a 7-iron from 196 yards on the 17th hole — which had only yielded four birdies all day — and finished with a 20-foot birdie putt.
For so long, it was all about avoiding mistakes on a North course that baked under a blazing sun and finally felt like a U.S. Open. And then Fowler with his big putt, Scheffler with his big shot and loads of mistakes by so many others turned this into the show everyone expect.
Now it falls to Fowler to see if he can finally deliver a major championship, and to McIlroy to see if he can end nine long years without one.
Clark held his nerve to the end and was right there with him, even after a rare errant shot into the barranca on the 17th. He smartly took a penalty drop and made a 7-foot putt to escape with bogey.