Two-time PGA Tour winner Brian Harman holds the aces going into Sunday’s final round at the US Open on Sunday, writes WADE PRETORIUS.
Overnight rain and a lack of the kind of winds that make Erin Hills an ideal US Open venue meant the course was at the player’s mercy on moving day, and the field took full advantage as they attacked the flag without thought of consequence in Wisconsin.
Patrick Reed, inspired by wearing his Ryder Cup-winning pants, was the first to make his move as he made a staggering eight birdies en route to a 65. Reed’s name was thrown into the mix, with as many as seven players tied for the lead at one point in the afternoon.
The next story was that of Justin Thomas, who made history with a 63 to erase Johnny Miller’s name from the record books as the player with the lowest round in relation to par during any round of the US Open. And in the hysteria of trick-shot putts, a lip out on 15 and a sensational 3-wood to give himself an eagle putt on 18, it could be forgotten that he made two bogeys on a day that really should’ve been his.
It says something about the conditions that a player who shot 63 in the penultimate round did not find himself at the top of the leaderboard, and had to rely on a bogey from nowhere on the 18th from Tommy Fleetwood to get into the final pairing. Thomas will be off last, ahead of fellow American Brooks Koepka, who birdied the 18th with a two-putt to get to -11, and Fleetwood with the trend of first-time Major winners set to stretch to seven.
The only men capable of ending that streak, are current Masters champion Sergio Garcia and South African Louis Oosthuizen, who are seven shots behind after indifferent Saturdays.
Falling out of contention after 54 holes were Oosthuizen, who doubled 17 and bogeyed 18 after being greenside in two, and Fleetwood’s countryman Paul Casey, who never rebounded after an early triple bogey wrecked his scorecard.
The last two hours of play resembled an extended highlights package as Rickie Fowler threw his name into the hat, making three successive birdies from the 14th to get to within two of the lead.
The world number nine will need to find more consistency off the tee, he hit just 57% of the fairways on Saturday, as he relied on his putter to keep himself in contention, ranked second for putts on moving day. Fowler will be off third last, alongside South Korea’s Players Championship winner Si Woo Kim.
But at the end of it, it was Harman who topped the pile after he shot 67 on Saturday. The 30-year-old is vying to become the first left-hander to win the event, and displayed all the characteristics of a Major champion as he attacked the course from the start. He turned in 34 after three birdies and a bogey on the difficult third, before a 33 coming in helped him head into the final 18 with a slender lead.
Harman will rest tonight in the hope that he does not live to regret what might’ve been had he sunk his final birdie attempt, instead he watched as it rolled just inches past the hole to keep Thomas, Fleetwood and Koepka within a shot and Fowler within two with all to play for on Sunday.
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