Eddie Pells (AP National Writer)
LOS ANGELES (AP) — There are two players at the top of the U.S. Open leaderboard, each seeking their first major title. That’s all they have in common.
Rickie Fowler has played majors and won nine tournaments around the world, and has long been one of golf’s most celebrated players. It’s only seven games for Wyndham Clark to play a major, but it’s the first time he finished better than No. 75 no matter what he played on Sunday.
“It’s a little surreal to be in this situation,” Clark said.
In a way, Rory McIlroy, the one-stroke player, feels the same way. He’s trying to overcome a drought that lasted nine years without a major. He starts the day one stroke behind the leader. Does the fact that he’s won four of them, including the 2011 Congressional US Open, give him an edge?
“I don’t know,” he said. “It’s been a really long time since I’ve done something like this.”
McIlroy will be paired with Scotty Schaeffler, who is three behind the leader. A win would tie Tiger Woods as the only player to win the U.S. Open as No. 1.
On Saturday, Schaeffler holed out the 17th fairway for an eagle and then birdied to close the gap from seven shots behind. This was a remarkable growth, especially considering this is the US Open, a tournament traditionally won by par saves rather than fireworks.
But the Los Angeles Country Club is a different kind of venue than the US Open. Scoring 62 twice, he scored 30 on 9 holes four times and 29 once. It has received mixed reviews from players.
“To be honest, I’m not a big fan of this golf course,” said Victor Hovland.
At least one player will love it when the sun goes down on Sunday.
Things to look out for on Sunday:
Back in 2014, Fowler finished in the top five at all four majors. A year later, he won The Players Championship and moved up to 4th in the rankings. He had fallen to 185th place two years ago.
Without a three-putt bogey on the 18th, he was single-handedly leading into the final round. Then Clarke birdied on the same hole to level the score heading into the remaining 18 holes.
“It really doesn’t matter,” Fowler said of the late blunder. “Keep the lead, one back, two back. We have to play good golf tomorrow.”
McIlroy has not won a major since the 2014 PGA Championship at Valhalla. That same year he won the British Open at Hoylake. It was hard to imagine him doing nothing for nine years.
McIlroy lined up with a 54-hole lead at last summer’s British Open, 2-putting 70s on all 18 greens (par 16, birdie 2) before Cameron Smith beat him to take the Claret Jug.
McIlroy hasn’t shined at all in the past two weeks when he had a chance to win. He lined up with a 54-hole lead at Memorial and finished four back with 75 shots. And at last week’s Canadian Open, he came in two shots behind on Sunday, hitting 72 to finish five.
The most exciting part of LA Country Club is the downhill par 4 6th, which is about 300 yards long. Some players go for the green, but that requires hitting a blind tee shot over the trees that obscure the green and landing the ball on a putting surface that is only about 12 steps in diameter.
The green is surrounded by LACC’s famous barranca. A barranca is a sandy gully overgrown with grass that runs across the course and clings to the ball. A layup here gives these players a birdie chance. This hole ranks his third easiest through his three rounds.
There were two par 5s on the front nine, nearly two shots easier to play than the LACC’s back nine. Aside from that, Schaeffler’s Eagle Birdy finish comes to mind, but the last three holes are sticky.
The last three holes average 518 yards and are all played as par 4s.
Schaeffler, Fowler and Clark all underlined this week in that three-hole stretch. McIlroy played with them at two over par.
AP golf reporter Doug Ferguson contributed to this report.
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https://www.mcall.com/2023/06/18/fowler-mcilroy-scheffler-headline-the-final-round-in-a-us-open-full-of-possibilities/ Fowler, McIlroy, Schaeffler Headliners for Potential Final Round of US Open – Wake-up Call