Saturday, May 26, 2018
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Wind puts bite in course


It was hats off to the 18th hole at Shinnecock Hills Golf Club yesterday where Shigeki Maruyama, left, double bogeyed and Phil Michelson bogeyed. Michelson also bogeyed No. 17.


SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y. - They were reaching for tourniquets yesterday at Shinnecock Hills. Anything to stop the bleeding during the third round of the U.S. Open.

Moving day? That depends. How far can a snail move in five hours?

Up came the wind and down went the field and when the carnage cleared it was Retief Goosen, able to clip one shot off par of 70, who found himself at the top of the leaderboard at 5-under-par 205.

"The greens were rock hard and very bumpy and tricky to putt on," said Goosen, the 2001 Open champ at Southern Hills. "I putted very nicely today and that kept me in the thick of things."

Few could say the same. Masters champion Phil Mickelson three-putted No. 18 for a bogey-bogey finish and a round of 73. He is tied two shots off the lead with two-time Open champion Ernie Els, who matched par.

"It doesn't get much harder than that,"

said Els. "The greens were borderline and they're getting away from us now. You have to play great to make pars."

Fred Funk and Shigeki Maruyama, who had a double bogey at the last hole, are tied at 2-under, a shot better than Jeff Maggert and Tim Clark. The latter, a South African like Goosen and Els, defied the odds yesterday and carded a 4-under 66, one of just three sub-par scores posted by the field.

Five players - Goosen, Mickelson, Maruyama, Funk and Maggert - held the lead at one time or another. Maggert was at 6-under and ahead by two shots after eight holes, but had five bogeys coming in for a 74.

"My chin's up, but I was a little disappointed in what the USGA did with the golf course," Maggert said. "Obviously, they don't like to see anybody shooting under par. [The greens] are so bouncy, the ball just doesn't hold its line. You're forced to hit it harder and that means you risk a long putt coming back."

Speaking of going backwards, J.J. Henry, a tour pro of little renown, played 18 holes and scored one par. Good gracious, the man birdied three out of four holes at one point and still shot an 86.

Yes, it was one of those U.S. Open days.

Already sun-baked, Shinnecock added the defense of wind yesterday and all those low, red numbers posted during the first 36 holes blew away.

No hole played tougher than Shinnecock's famous par-3 seventh, called The Redan, which was nearly unplayable by the time the last group came through.

The hole's name and its configuration dates to the Crimean War when Russian fortresses were built atop ridges that were slanted on the top shelf so that enemy attackers would advance without cover up a slope towards the defenders.

Shinnecock's Redan hole is set at an angle from front-right to back-left and as it baked in the sun and turned crunchy under the warm wind, it took the touch of a safecracker just to get a tee shot to stop on the putting surface.

"When you have to hit it in the bunker to try to make par, I don't think it's a very good hole," Maggert said.

Perhaps Chez Reavie, one of the 66 players who made the cut, will hold a clinic this morning. He scored the only birdie on the hole yesterday as far less than one-third of the field managed to find the green.

Oh, lots of balls landed on it. But most picked up speed near the cup and kept rolling and landed well off the back or left edges. That happened to Mickelson, who chipped back on and then saw his par putt dive below the cup, come to almost a complete stop inches away, then start rolling again en route to a double bogey.

His co-leader at the time, Maruyama, managed to stop his tee shot on the green above the hole, then putted off the green and took bogey.

"I was lucky mine stopped where it did," Mickelson said. "I really do think this is a tremendous golf course. It's just that one hole today was a little bit ... well, I don't know what to say. You saw it. There were a lot of tough pins. It was very difficult. I was probably lucky to make as many putts as I did.

"I didn't hit it well, not the way I have been. I missed a lot of fairways, which hurt. But I felt like I fought really hard."

If one golfer gets his way, the course and the conditions will have the field fighting for its life again during today's final round.

Yes, Tiger Woods thinks he's still in it. The world's No. 1-ranked player holed his approach shot from 106 yards for an eagle at No. 18 for a round of 73 that left him at 4-over 214, nine shots behind Goosen.

"Hopefully, the wind will be blowing just like today, if not harder," Woods said. "The eagle put me back in the golf tournament. If I can get to even par, maybe under, you never know."

Mike Weir, who is at even par, and Sergio Garcia also hope to fight from behind. Garcia, with two recent wins on the PGA Tour, was struggling at 4-over through 11 holes before catching three birdies down the stretch.

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