Rory McIlroy one stroke behind lead going into last day of US Open
Rickie Fowler and Wyndham Clark will take a share of the lead into the final round of the 123rd US Open, with Rory McIlroy just a shot behind at Los Angeles Country Club.
Chasing his first major title, halfway leader Fowler looked set to maintain his overnight advantage until three-putting the 18th, the resulting level-par 70 leaving him on 10 under par.
Playing partner Clark hitting a stunning approach to the last to set up a closing birdie and complete a hard-fought 69, with McIlroy also recording a 69 as he bids to claim a fifth major and first since the 2014 US PGA.
World number one Scottie Scheffler finished eagle, birdie to card a second consecutive 68 and lie three shots off the lead.
McIlroy held a share of the lead after two-putting the first for a birdie and then holing from 12 feet for another on the third, but that proved to be the longest putt the world number three holed all day.
“I feel pretty good,” McIlroy said. “The golf course definitely got a little trickier than the first couple of days.
“I felt like I played smart solid golf. It felt somewhat stress-free, if you can ever call golf at a US Open stress-free, but overall pretty pleased with how today went. I feel like I’m in a good spot going into tomorrow.”
Asked about using his experience of previous major wins on Sunday, McIlroy added: “It’s been such a long time since I’ve done it and I’m going out there to try to execute a game plan.
“I feel like the last three days I’ve done that really well. Just need to do that for one more day.”
An otherwise dull day had finally been enlivened by Fowler holing from 70 feet for an unlikely birdie on the 13th, followed minutes later by Scheffler holing out from 196 yards for an eagle on the 17th.
Scheffler also birdied the last to move ominously into contention for a second major title, the former Masters champion continuing the form which has seen him win twice and finish no worse than 11th all season.
The only player since the rankings began in 1986 to win the US Open while world number one is Tiger Woods, who achieved the feat three times.
Scheffler, who has struggled with his putting recently, also birdied the 18th to complete a second consecutive 68 and close to within four of Fowler’s lead.
“I was standing on the 17th tee, having just made another bogey to be seven shots back, and just thinking I could steal a shot coming in,” Scheffler said.
“I hit a good drive, then the shot goes in and I birdie 18 and all of a sudden I’m only four back. It’s a huge momentum boost.
“We could not see the ball go in (on 17), but there was a nice crowd there on the grandstand behind the green.
“I saw where it landed and I thought it would funnel out on to the green and I’d have a look for birdie and then you could see everybody as the noise started to kind of rise, then they erupted, which is always nice when you’re standing back there in the fairway.”
Fowler had failed to qualify for the last two US Opens as a loss of form saw him tumble to 185th in the world rankings, but came into the week on the back of successive top 10s on the PGA Tour and ranked 45th.
“I hit a good putt on 18 so really can’t go back on it,” Fowler said. “It would be nice for that one to go in but it really doesn’t matter, having the lead, being one back, two back. You’re going to have to play good golf tomorrow.
“Tomorrow is a whole new day, and like I said, that’s kind of when the tournament really starts.
“Obviously it would be huge to win. It would be great. Especially being here in Southern California, having a lot of people, family and friends that are out here this week.
“We have a chance tomorrow, after going through the last few years, I’m not scared to fail. I’ve dealt with that. We’re just going to go have fun, continue to try to execute, leave it all out there, see where we stand on 18.”