Harman grabs solo lead, Thomas makes history
June 17, 2017
By Ben Everill, PGATOUR.COM
- HARTFORD, WI - JUNE 17: Justin Thomas of the United States reacts after making a birdie on the 17th green during the third round of the 2017 U.S. Open at Erin Hills on June 17, 2017 in Hartford, Wisconsin. (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)
ERIN, Wis. – News and notes from Saturday’s third round of the U.S. Open where Brian Harman shot a solid 5-under 67 to move to 12-under and take a one-shot lead over Justin Thomas, Brooks Koepka and Tommy Fleetwood. Thomas fired a U.S. Open record 9-under 63. The last two PLAYERS Championship winners in Rickie Fowler (-10) and Si Woo Kim (-9) also lurk.
For more of what unfolded at Erin Hills on Saturday, click here.
SLEEP WITH ONE EYE OPEN
Rickie Fowler promised it won’t get too physical. Justin Thomas will probably lighten up on the usual pranks as well. But it should still be a fun night at home Saturday as the two housemates look towards a potential breakthrough major victory on Sunday.
Fowler and Thomas, part of the infamous spring break crew with Jordan Spieth and Smylie Kaufman, are sharing a rental house near Erin Hills this week and find themselves deep in contention with a round to go.
Thomas fired a U.S. Open record 9-under 63 to be just one off the lead. Fowler’s tidy 68 left him two back.
The latter figured the mood wouldn’t get tense despite what is at stake on Sunday.
“We'll have a good time. We've been eating well. I think we'll be able to sit back, relax,” Fowler grinned.
“I’m looking forward to getting some of the highlights on his round. We won’t be throwing elbows. We're separated by a floor. He's upstairs and I'm down in the basement area. So shouldn't get too physical.”
Thomas is expecting to have trouble sleeping, but not because he expects Fowler to try anything sneaky.
“It's going to be weird. I don't know what I'm going to feel tonight, if I'm going to sleep well. I'm sure I won't sleep in. I usually don't,” Thomas says.
“I know I'm going to be nervous, but it's a good nervous, that's why I play to get myself in this position. And I'm excited for the opportunity to see what happens.”
If Fowler was feeling generous he could perhaps talk about the experience of being in the mix late Sunday in a major. It will be the fourth time he will start within two shots of the lead through 54 holes in major championships.
He was two back at the 2014 Masters before shooting 73 to fade to T5. He started Sunday at the 2014 PGA Championship with the same deficit, shot 68, and finished T3. And recently in April he was just one back at the Masters but faded with a 76 to be T11.
Thomas is in his eighth major and has not yet even sniffed contention prior. But of course he has four PGA TOUR wins, is running second in the FedExCup this season and also shot a 59 earlier in the year.
The top 16 players on the leaderboard have not won a major before meaning no one really has the experience to draw on. Someone is likely to extend the streak of first time winners to seven.
“It's going to be a really cool day for someone tomorrow. I'm looking forward to my shot at it,” Fowler said.
“It's not going to be an easy day, for sure. I've been there a handful of times and had some good finishes. But I'm looking forward to getting the job done.”
IT’S ALL IN THE PANTS
The old saying from Ben Hogan when asked about his swing was “The secret is in the dirt”.
As it turns out – for Patrick Reed – the secret is in the pants. His Ryder Cup pants.
Captain America turned up with a sublime 7-under 65 which until over shadowed by Justin Thomas’ 63 was a third-round U.S. Open record equaling effort.
If gives Reed a chance at a maiden major championship as he sits at 8-under, trailing by four shots in a tie for seventh.
Reed sported the blue pants he used while leading the American charge at Hazeltine last year – the first time he’d sported them in competition since.
Coupled with a red shirt and a white hat it inspired “USA, USA, USA” chants all day long, seemingly lifting Reed to heights he hasn’t felt for a while.
“Just kind of bring back not only the patriotism, but also bring back some of that Ryder Cup feelings,” Reed said of his wife Justine’s insistence he wear America’s colors this week.
“I felt like I was getting it going a little bit today, especially on that 14, 15, 16 stretch, just the fans started going crazy. And anytime you start hitting some quality shots and making some putts, you feel the adrenaline going.”
Since a T6 finish at the SBS Tournament of Champions in January Reed has been without a top-10 in 15 PGA TOUR starts.
At the Wells Fargo Championship he took the 54-hole lead but faded with a final round 75 to finish T12.
It hasn’t been the Reed we saw take down Rory McIlroy in an epic singles match last October and who looked set to tear the TOUR apart this season. Instead he ranks 86th in the FedExCup.
But he has learned how to approach majors recently after trying too hard in his early years.
“I worked too hard Monday through Wednesday and so by Saturday I was tired,” Reed said of his first two years of majors.
“And then also I was living and dying by every golf shot, every putt and everything. Coming into this year I was just like it's another golf tournament. Show up. Do what you do on a normal event and just play golf.
“Because at the end of the day, if I go out and play the best I can and am happy with how I play, the results will take care of itself. And that's the kind of mindset I am going into tomorrow.”
BEST OF SOCIAL MEDIA
That's one historic autograph. ✍️ pic.twitter.com/1cznMNPLFf— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) June 18, 2017
Brian Harman leads alone.— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) June 17, 2017
Sunday at the U.S. Open awaits. pic.twitter.com/IpjypTNbLQ
FORMER PLAYERS CHAMP HELPS HENLEY
There were mountains of birdies on moving day at Erin Hills but only Russell Henley got around without a bogey.
His 5-under 67 that lifted this seasons Shell Houston Open winner to 8-under and a tie for seventh just four off the lead was one full of patience, something he says 2010 PLAYERS Champion Tim Clark has drummed in to him.
“Tim Clark has been somebody that helped me a lot with my game. He talked to me this week about the only thing I can do is do the best I can on every shot,” Henley said.
“As cliché as that is, when you're in a major and there's emotion and adrenaline and you want to play good really bad, and you watched guys playing in the U.S. Open when you were growing up (it can all get the better of you).
“So I keep reminding myself to do the best I can, one shot at a time, and it's led me here. That's what I'm going to try to keep doing.”
Henley is looking to improve on his best major result, which came just a few months back at the Masters where he finished T11 the week after claiming his third PGA TOUR victory in Houston.
“Worrying about what anybody else is doing is the last thing I need to do,” he said.
“I need to hit the best shot I can hit on No. 1, and see where it takes me.”
ODDS AND ENDS
Third round leader Brian Harman is no stranger to closing the deal – he did so with style not so long ago at the Wells Fargo Championship. Despite having Dustin Johnson looking to extend a win streak to four and young gun Jon Rahm among others chasing him down Harman nailed two closing birdies, including a lengthy putt on the last, for an epic victory. Now he will try to become the first left hander to win the U.S. Open. ... “I think I'll draw on some of the preparations I did for that week. Just kind of how I felt that morning before, because I remember specifically I kind of dealt with some of those emotions,” he said. “I think everyone has doubts, everyone has fears. For me, just trying to figure out what they are and kind of rationalize them and deal with them (is the key).
PLAYERS champion Si Woo Kim is just three shots back as he looks to join Martin Kaymer (2014) as the only PLAYERS champion to win the U.S. Open in the same year as his victory at TPC Sawgrass. With a win this week, Kim would become the fifth player to win THE PLAYERS and a major championship in the same year joining Jack Nicklaus, 1978 (Open Championship), Hal Sutton, 1983 (PGA Championship), Tiger Woods, 2001 (Masters) and Kaymer, 2014 (U.S. Open). He is paired with 2016 PLAYERS champion Rickie Fowler in the final round.
Through 54 holes, 115 sub-par rounds have been recorded, 44 in round one, 39 in round two and 32 in round three. The record for most sub-par rounds in a single U.S. Open is 124 at Medinah in 1990.
Brooks Koepka has just one PGA TOUR win but he’s certainly shown he has major winning potential having four previous top-10 finishes. (T4-2016 PGA, T4-2014 U.S. Open, T5-2015 PGA, T10-2015 The Open). He starts the final round just one shot off the lead in a tie for second. This week is his 15th major championship appearance. He missed the cut in his first two but has made the cut in 13 consecutive since.
The battle for low amateur continues Sunday with Cameron Champ sitting at 4-under T17 and Scottie Scheffler sitting at 2-under in a tie for 30th. Scheffler was 4-under and bogey-free for the day heading to the 18th tee when disaster struck in the form of a triple bogey, leading to a 71. The last amateur to finish inside the top 15 at the U.S. Open was Spencer Levin (T13) in 2004 at Shinnecock Hills.