Rory McIlroy recovers his swagger to set up chance of a fifth major at US Open

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·42-min read
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Rory McIlroy hRory McIlroy will go in search of major No.5 on Sunday at Torrey Pinesas made a good start to his round - GETTY IMAGES
Rory McIlroy hRory McIlroy will go in search of major No.5 on Sunday at Torrey Pinesas made a good start to his round - GETTY IMAGES

On the 10th anniversary of his first major victory, Rory McIlroy finally looks like Rory again. The swagger is back, as are the roars from the crowd, and although there is obviously so much left to attract the focus in the already dramatic 121st US Open, it is impossible not to be swept away by the tide of McIlroy belief on the layout perched on the Pacific Ocean.

Not to say that Torrey Pines in 2021 in any way resembles Congressional in 2011. It is a different test on the opposite coast and unless McIlroy achieves the miraculous he is hardly going to win by eight.

But he is certainly in the frame and on three-under after a 67, in a tie for fourth, just two off the 54-hole lead - held by Americans Russell Henley and Mackenzie Hughes and South African Louis Oosthuizen - a fifth major is a tantalising possibility.

Bryson DeChambeau, the defending champion, is on the same mark as McIlroy, enjoying a fine Saturday with a 68. It is a wonderful leaderboard, with DeChambeau’s nemesis Brooks Koepka on level par and in with a clear shout after his 71.

Bryson DeChambeau - GETTY IMAGES
Bryson DeChambeau - GETTY IMAGES

The world No 1, Dustin Johnson, is another in contention, on one-under courtesy of a 68. But still the eye running down the standings is drawn to McIlroy. He had 10 bogeys in the first two rounds and just one in the third.

Of course, there have been so many false major dawns for McIlroy’s legion of admirers since he won his most recent major seven years ago. The 32-year-old has posted six top-fives in the majors in the intervening period, but on none of those occasions has his candidature appeared completely legitimate.

At Torrey Pines on this Sunday it does and although the South Course has a penchant for derailing challenges within a hole, there is no getting away from the Rory-mania taking over San Diego.

He missed the cut at the Masters, scraped inside the top 50 in last month’s US PGA, but won in Quail Hollow in between for his first title in 18 months. Under his new coach Pete Cowen, he is clearly making huge improvement and even a fifth major might be ahead of their schedule since they joined forces in March, it is right there as a tantalising possibility.

“It's definitely the best that I've played this week,” McIlroy said. “I hit a lot of fairways, hit a lot of greens, gave myself a lot of birdie chances. Didn't actually make that many, but I just stayed really patient knowing that, if you're not making bogeys out there, you're not losing ground.

“I thought like two 68s over the weekend from where I was after Friday was going to have a good chance. I've done the first part of that job. Now it's up to me tomorrow to go out and try to play a similar round of golf and that's it. I'm trying to think of the last time where I really felt like I had a chance.

“Carnoustie [at The Open] in '18 and Pebble [Beach in the US Open] in 2019. But apart from that, there's been some good finishes but never felt like I was in the thick of things I'm just excited for the opportunity to have a chance and be in one of the final groups.”

As McIlroy indicated, he simply needs to launch similar fireworks off the clifftop layout where has a great layout. The outrageous chip-in from 30 yards or more on the 12th was the moment the place went crazy.

From the gnarled rough, his ball took a wonderful curling direction into the cup for his third birdie for the day. McIlroy birdied the next, as well, and when he parred the next was five-under for his last 18 holes - with no bogeys. In anyone’s language, this was championship golf.

There was a bogey on the 15th, but that was not about to derail the enthusiasm, especially when he pulled back the shot with a birdie on the 18th. The world No 11 has justified hope and that was enough for the enchanted galleries.

Paul Casey will also believe he has a sniff after his 67 hauled him back to 70. After his runner-up finish in last year’s US PGA - as well as his fourth in the same major last month - Casey has every right to have confidence in his ability at the age of 43 to make his breakthrough in the events that matter most.

Yet, as of now, he seems the overwhelming favourite to net the last male place for Team GB.

Going into this last counting tournament, Casey was world No 19 to Matt Fitzpatrick’s 20th, with hardly anything between them as they have fought to join world No 9 Tyrrell Hatton at the Olympics.

The picture has become clearer with Fitzpatrick on four-over after a 72. Casey knows, however, that the job is not yet done. “You couldn't even slide a piece of paper between Fitzy and I, can you?” he said, after a round featuring seven birdies and four bogeys. “I mean, I’m trying not to think about it.”

Ian Poulter is also on level par after a 68, but overnight leader Richard Bland struggled to a 77 to fall back to one-over, alongside countryman Lee Westwood.

Overnight leader Richard Bland had a back nine to forget, to finish at one-over - GETTY IMAGES
Overnight leader Richard Bland had a back nine to forget, to finish at one-over - GETTY IMAGES

Meanwhile, Laird Shepherd produced an historic comeback in the Amateur Championship final on Saturday by coming back from eight down in the 36-hole final to prevail on the second extra hole.

And in the process the 23-year-old St Andrews-based Englishman turned the links of Nairn into his own personal Narnia by earning himself berths in next month’s Open, as well as the 2022 Masters and US Open. Nobody has ever won from such a deficit in the final.

For the US at the Ryder Cup at Medinah in 2012, read poor Monty Scowsill at Nairn in 2021. The 25-year-old from Suffolk marched clear and looked certain to add his name to the famous old trophy and grab those golden tickets. Instead it is Shepherd who will take his place in golf’s fantasy lands.

Having battled with knee and back injuries in recent times and worked in a Tesco call centre during the lockdown, Shepherd was understandably emotional after the dramatic conclusion that saw him four down with four to play in the afternoon round, before winning them all.

“Eight down through 17 and, honestly, I was more concerned about not suffering an embarrassing record-breaking defeat,” Shepherd said. “Monty played so well in the morning, so composed, and I didn’t really have my game. To turn it around was unbelievable.

“The tears are probably for the tough times I’ve had over the last few years. It’s never nice as an athlete when you feel like you are going backwards, like I was. The last 18 holes I thought ‘I’m not going to win’, but at least I could get a few highlights that I can watch on YouTube one night... It’s just amazing how things can change. In the morning, I was all over the place and was more concerned about being sick on live TV.”

Shepherd felt for Scowskill, who went through the first 10 holes in four-under. “He’s a mate of mine,” he said. “He did play so well, holed a lot of great putts. He didn’t give it away, he really didn’t. He holed great putts on the 34th and the 35th to force me to make min.”

Scowskill tried to remain philosophical but it was obviously difficult. Outside the world amateur top 1,000 at the start of the week, this would have been of the great shocks of the tournament. “It’s really tough to take,” he said. “I was in command all the way, really. I finished poorly and Laird finished very well, to be fair to him. “I wouldn’t have done anything differently. I just didn’t hit the shots when I needed to on the back nine. It happens. It was my morning, it was his afternoon. But that’s golf.”

01:05 AM

The Leaderboard

-5: Mackenzie Hughes, Louis Oosthuizen, Russell Henley

-3: Rory Mcilroy, Bryson DeChambeau

-2: Scottie Scheffler, Jon Rahm, Matthew Wolff

-1: Dustin Johnson, Collin Morikawa, Christiaan Bezuidenhout, Xander Schauffele, Kevin Streelman

E: Paul Casey, Ian Poulter, Francesco Molinari, Sungjae Im, Brooks Koepka, Justin Thomas, Harris English

12:53 AM

Bland takes a drop

And plays a fine shot to within 10 feet. Meanwhile, Henley is in the bunker and chips out to 12 feet. He has that putt for par. He makes it (of course he does, he's been gutsy all day) and stays co-leader on five-under.

Bland then nails his bogey putt and ends the day on one-over. He finished with three bogeys on the bounce. He was five-over for the back nine and his round, which during the outward nine looked solid, unravelled.

12:42 AM

Oh no...

Richard Bland finds the water with his third at the 18th. His lay up at the par five found the rough and he compounded that error with another by ending short rather than long. Horrible way to finish a round that promised much.

12:39 AM

Matthew Wolff parred the last

He's on two-under heading into the final round. He was two-over for the day but he knows how to find birdies at Torrey Pines and if he can get off to a good start tomorrow will be one to watch.

12:37 AM

What a putt!

Everyone, me included, always bangs on about Oosthuizen's great, smooth, sexy (yes, I am using that word) swing, But he's top of the putting stats on the PGA Tour this year and that eagle showed why.

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12:34 AM

The eagle has landed for Louis Oosthuizen

He had a slow start, falling back to two-under. But the South African nails a long downhill put on the last for an eagle and a share of the lead. He is now five-under and quite possibly the man to catch. He's never won in the US (yes, weird to think that...) but he has another chance to right that wrong and win his second major in the process tomorrow.

Louis Oosthuizen
Louis Oosthuizen

12:26 AM

Bland plays a fine shot from the fairway bunker at the 17th

But he's on the green in three. His putt flirts with the hole but stays above ground and he goes to level-par.

12:24 AM

Rahm has had an off, uninspiring day

BUT he birdies the 18th and is on two-under heading into the last day. That was a one-over round of 72. He's won at Torrey Pines before (the Farmers in 2017) and you suspect he won't play as underwhelmingly tomorrow - the Spaniard is in a fine position.

12:20 AM

Wolff is back to two-under

The American makes an error out of the bunker on the 17th and leaves himself too much to do.

12:19 AM

Hughes high up

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12:17 AM

Bland back to one-under

It hasn't been his day today. He puts his tee shot at the par-three 16th into the bunker. He plays a delightful chip to five feet, but misses the putt...He's still in this, he could do with a birdie at one of the last two holes, though...

12:15 AM

Mackenzie Hughes missed five missed cuts in a row...

...coming into this tournament BUT he's now co-leader at the US Open. He birdies the last to get to five-under. Ballsy.

Hughes 
Hughes

12:12 AM

Henley is back to five-under

He bogeyed the 15th (which for some bonkers reason Sky didn't show...we know the Brooks vs Bryson battle is fun and DeChambeau talking about it was interesting BUT Henley is leading the tournament, perhaps show when the leader drops a shot?!?) and his lead is cut to one. Bland parred the par four and remains at two-under.

12:08 AM

Louis Oosthuizen birdies at 16

The South African with the silky swing goes back to three-under.

12:06 AM

DeChambeau speaks about Brooks Koepka...

The defending champion spoke about the swing thought that came to him in a dream (no, really...) and how he played but it's his comments on his rival Brooks Koepka (who is on level-par heading into the last day) that made for the most interesting listening...

“[The spat] funny, the first week it was interesting but as time has gone on it’s been fun, it’s really cool. If we were paired it would be awesome, it would give the fans what they want - I look forward to that day.”

12:02 AM

DeChambeau makes history!

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12:01 AM

Henley and Bland are on the 15th

Henley pulls his approach while Bland swings well but the ball goes through the back of the green -unlucky. He's been swinging it well for most of the round but has been punished for the odd mistake.

11:56 PM

Mackenzie Hughes stays on four-under

But it could have been five-under - the Canadian's birdie putt on the 17th flirting with the hole.

11:47 PM

Scottie Scheffler is another who has been quietly...

...going about his business. He birdies 17 to get to two-under.

11:45 PM

A quick word on Xander Schauffele

The local boy was expected to move on moving day - forwards not backwards. He's two-over for the round and back at level-par for the tournament.

11:43 PM

The Leaderboard

-6 Henley

-4 Hughes

-3 McIlroy, DeChambeau, Wolff

-2 Bland, Oosthuizen

11:40 PM

DeChambeau taps in for par on 18

He'll feel that's a bogey BUT he's at three-under and ready to strike tomorrow. Can he successfully defend his title? He's getting better every round - that was a bogey-free 68. Impressive.

11:36 PM

Henley looks calm

Leading the US Open isn't fazing him - he pars the 13th and stays on six-under. Bland pars the par-four also and remains at two-under

11:33 PM

Rahm is angry

Which can only mean one thing. The Spaniard registers his first blemish of the day and it's a double bogey - he missed a putt of three-feet for bogey and walks off really annoyed with himself. That was all down to his drive that went into the left rough, he was always behind the eight-ball from then, He's now at one-under.

11:23 PM

DeChambeau walks to the 18th on three-under

He;s played well today - three birdies and no bogeys. He will back himself to get at least birdie at the least.

Meanwhile, the duo of Louis Oosthuizen and Matthew Wolff both birdie the 13th to get to three-under and four-under respectively.

11:20 PM

Henley is through the back on the 12th

And has a devilish lie in the thick rough, but he plays a great chip and he makes a brilliant par save to stay at six-under.

Bland drops another shot - he pulled his approach and he cannot get up and down the the greenside rough and he's three-over for his round and now two-under for the tournament.

11:12 PM

Bunker brilliance

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11:09 PM

The Leaderboard

LB
LB

11:06 PM

Rory McIlroy speaks...

On how he’s playing…

“I am happy with how I played. There weren’t as many black numbers today which is really nice. I started solidly and played so well tee-to-green until the 15th. It’s the best I’ve played all week.”

On what it would mean to win tomorrow…

“It would mean an awful lot, I feel good and I’ve given myself a chance. It seems a while since I’ve had a chance to win a major, my game feels good.”

11:05 PM

MacKenzie Hughes eagles the 13th

The Canadian has been quietly going about his business and is now in second on four-under, He came into the third round on two-under and is now making his move.

11:03 PM

A tale of two bunker shots

Bland pulls his tee shot at the par-three 11th into the left bunker, Henley puts his into the right bunker. Bland puts second nearly through the back of the green and has a tough two-putt for bogey. Henley then holes his bunker shot to go back to six-under. Bland walks off with a bogey and he's now at three-under.

HENLEY HAS A THREE-SHOT LEAD

-6 Henley

-3 Bland, McIlroy, DeChambeau, Rahm, Wolff

10:54 PM

Bland pulls his approach to the 10th

But show beautiful touch to chip from the rough to within four feet - he makes par and stays at four-under.

Henley drops a shot - he went into the sand from the tee and wasn't able to scramble for par. He drops back to five-under and the lead is just one.

10:51 PM

The Leaderboard

LB
LB

10:45 PM

Rory has a chance to finish with an eagle

He's on the 18th green in two thanks to a 206-yard six-iron. He's got a long, downhill putt for the big bird, his attempt goes just long and he sinks the birdie to finish on three-under. That was an impressive four-under 67 and he will be in the mix tomorrow.

ROry McIlroy 
ROry McIlroy

10:39 PM

How to go two-clear

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10:34 PM

Bland has a long putt for eagle at the ninth

He gets it to within 10 feet before it then trickles back down the hill - how annoying. His birdie putt is just short and he'll stay on four-under. He's now two back as Henley gets up and down from the greenside bunker for a birdie and he's now two clear on six-under.

-6 Henley

-4 Bland

-3 DeChambeau, Oosthuizen, Rahm, Wolff

10:31 PM

Jon Rahm finally makes a birdie

The Spaniard is back to three-under after sinking that putt at the 10th.

10:28 PM

Bryson DeChambeau birdies the par-five 13th

That takes him to three-under and he's now just two back of Henley's lead (and also he's now unlikely to be partnered with Brooksy Koepka tomorrow - we'll have to wait for that awkward twoball...)

10:24 PM

Brooks Koepka is having another average back nine

Just when you think he is going to make a move on the inward nine the American falls back. He drops a shot at the 15th and in back to level-par

10:23 PM

Let's call him Dick Bland from now on??

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10:22 PM

Dustin Johnson

Shot a three-under 68 and is one-under going into the final round. He is far from out of this and if he gets off to a fast start tomorrow could be the one to catch.

Here he is on his tournament so far...

"I feel like I'm swinging the club well...when I was on the fairway I am playing this course well. I am not hitting enough shots off the fairway."

10:13 PM

The top of the leaderboard

-5 Henley

-4 Bland, Wolff

-3 Oosthuizen

-2 McIlroy, DeChambeau, Streelman, Rahm

10:11 PM

Great par save from Rory...

...at the par-three 16th...he stays at two-under, well in the mix.

10:09 PM

Matthew Wolff birdies the eighth

To join Richard Bland at four-under. Great bounce back from the bogey the previous hole - no one has more birdies (13) than him this week.

10:07 PM

There's a lot to be scared about at Torrey Pines

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10:06 PM

The Leaderboard

LB
LB

10:04 PM

Rory is in trouble off the tee at the 14th

His drive goes way, way left into a ravine and he takes a drop. He manages to leave the green with just the one dropped shot and he's back to two-under.

Also dropping shots are Matthew Wolff and Louis Oosthuizen - they both suffer blemishes at the seventh and are now at three-under.

09:59 PM

Jon Rahm lets out a big roar

Not out of joy, but anger. He drops a shot at the par-three eighth. He's now at two-under - he's had a slow start to his third round.

09:56 PM

Richard Bland does well to par the sixth

He had an eight-footer for the par and he did brilliantly to putt it in after the dropped shot at the fifth.

Henley put his approach into the left-hand bunker and he two-putts to fall back to five-under, he leads by one from his playing partner, Louis Oosthuizen and Matthew Wolff.

09:48 PM

Very steady from Jon Rahm

He through seven holes and had seven pars. He stays on three-under, four off Henley's lead.

09:44 PM

Rory at Torrey Pines

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09:40 PM

Richard Bland shortsides himself...

...at the fifth. He's in the bunker and chips out of the sand to give himself a 20-foot par putt.

He misses and he's back to four-under. He was always going to drop shots can he bounce back - he did yesterday, but this is the weekend of a major.

09:38 PM

The Leaderboard

LB
LB

09:35 PM

Brooks Koepka drops a shot at the 12th

He's back at one-under. Just when you think he's going to make some sort of charge he makes a mistake and drops back. He's far from out of it but he does look short of his best - after returning from injury his team said they didn't expect him to be back to his best until September, perhaps they were right.

09:32 PM

Another birdie for Rory

After that bad luck he two-putts on the par -five 13th to get to four-under for the day and three-under for the tournament. He's looking mightily impressive.

09:31 PM

Louis Oosthuizen is now only...

...two back. The man with the best swing in the game birdies the fifth to get back to four-under. The Big Names are making their move.

09:29 PM

Bad luck for Rory McIlroy?

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09:27 PM

Rory is on fire at the moment

He's just gone through three of the toughest holes on the course in two-under. He then fires in his approach to 13 and it clatters the flag stick. It deflects it to the back to the green rather than the bunkers, it could have been worse BUT it could have been so much better.

09:25 PM

Russell Henley takes sole lead once again

He birdies the fourth to go to six-under. Bland pars and is one back.

09:24 PM

Bubba Watson pull his approach to the sixth...

...into the crowd and for once a pro yells 'FORE' it's not that tough...

Here's our very own James Corrigan on the arrogance of golfers not shouting 'FORE'...

READ: It can only be arrogance stopping pros shouting 'Fore!' - this dangerous attitude must be stopped

09:20 PM

Bland and Henley are both on the dance floor at the fourth

The American has a five-footer for birdie.

09:17 PM

The Leaderboard

LB
LB

09:16 PM

Fifteen are separated by just...

...four shots.

Did I say this was tight and wide open?

09:15 PM

Jon Rahm is doing his think of talking at the ground

He's a demonstrative chap, and he misses a good birdie chance at the fifth - he's level-par for the day and two-under for the tournament.

09:11 PM

That Rory birdie

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09:10 PM

Brooks Koepka has back-to-back birdies

At nine and 10. He's now two-under.

09:09 PM

Rory McIlroy makes his move!

He's just three off the lead now after the most unlikely of birdies at the 12th. He was short and in the rough with his approach. But he chips in from distance with his third and he's now two-under.

09:05 PM

DeChambeau is two-under...

...for his round and the tournament. That's thanks to a great par save at the seventh. He was wide right off the tee on the par four, but a great rescue from the rough and a two-putt gave him a par that would have felt like a birdie. Not bogeys on his card so far.

09:03 PM

Bland was aggressive with the putter...

...on the second. His attempt goes five-feet past the hole. He has a knee-trembler for par now. He sends it into the back of the hole and is still to miss inside 10 feet this week. That's some record through 38 holes of a major.

Henley has a long putt for par. He misses and goes back to five-under.

Henley - five-under
Bland - five-under

08:58 PM

Rory is playing well

Fresh off the birdie at 10 his six-foot birdie putt at the 11th flirts with the hole but stays up. That was a great chance to gain some momentum. He stays at one-under.

08:57 PM

Bland has 104 yards into the second

He flies it past the pin and it doesn't spin back - he still has a half-decent chance for birdie. Henley, on the same hole, is in trouble off the tee and has to hack it 40 yards short on the green.

08:54 PM

Henley's putt for the lead

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08:53 PM

Rory plays a great tee shot on the par-three 11th

He's got a great shot at another birdie.

Meanwhile, Lee Westwood birdies the ninth to move to level-par, he's now only six shots back of the new leader.

08:51 PM

The Leaderboard

LB
LB

08:49 PM

Birdies for McIlroy and DeChambeau

Rory gets to one-under with a birdie at 10 - he's two-under for his round. And the defending champion sinks a birdie chance at the sixth to move to two-under.

The Big Names are simmering.

08:48 PM

Russell Henley takes the solo lead

He sinks his birdie chance to go to six-under. Bland makes par to stay at five-under.

08:43 PM

Richard Bland's approach...

...is safe, it's 25 feet below the flag at the first and that should settle his nerves. His playing partner and co-leader, Russell Henley goes past the flag and has a similar-length putt for bogey.

08:41 PM

No one is making a charge at the leaders

Brooks Koepka has missed a few birdie chances so far and has now bogeyed the eighth - he's back to level-par.

08:39 PM

Louis Oosthuizen always turns up at majors

And he's doing well this week, so far, at Torrey Pines - BUT he gets his third round off with a bogey at the first to fall back to three-under.

08:38 PM

The final group are on the first tee

Russell Henley tees it up first - his drive finds the fairway on the right.

Then Richard Bland is up - his driving has been brilliant so far and he gets his third round off to a good start as his tee shot also finds the short stuff on the right.

Bland just needs to keep doing what he's been doing...

08:34 PM

Rahm makes a mistake at the second

He chips into the bunker after a big drive.

Meanwhile, Matthew Wolff's round gets under way with a drive into the right rough, His approach still finds the green, though.

DeChambeau misses a short birdie putt on the fifth and stays at one-under.

08:24 PM

Rahm's birdie attempt at the first...

...is pulled and he has to settle for par. He stays at two-under.

It's a par for his playing partner Bubba Watson and he too remains on two-under.

08:22 PM

Some people don't really like DeChambeau

And sometimes it's not tough to understand why they may not be huge fans.

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08:19 PM

Rory McIlroy is going along nicely

He's one-under for his round and hasn't been in much danger. He's had a few looks at birdies and could now do with a few of those chances dropping.

Meanwhile, Rahm has an eight-footer for birdie at the first.

08:14 PM

Jon Rahm is on the first tee

He's at two-under and has won at Torrey Pines. Could this be his major breakthrough? If he shoots in the 60s today, it could be.

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08:09 PM

Brooks Koepka misses the birdie chance at the sixth

He stays at one-under.

08:08 PM

It happens to everyone

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08:07 PM

One of the favourites

Xander Schauffele, opens with a bogey. He's now back at one-under. He's been looking forward to his national championship being played on his local course, he's still in a good position to mount a charge for the title.

08:04 PM

DeChambeau stays at one-under...

...through the third. He had a good look at birdie but his putt never looked like going in.

As that putt stayed up Brooks Koepka's approach to the par-four sixth lands 15 feet from the pin. He's looking good (though, I've said that the first two rounds and his rounds then unravelled...) Rory McIlroy pars the seventh to stay at level-par.

07:59 PM

Having birdied the second...

...Koepka has hit three pars. He's doing just fine and stays on one-under.

DeChambeau pars the second and, like his rival is one-under for the tournament.

07:52 PM

Most people will agree

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07:51 PM

DeChambeau drives it 352 on the second

That's to the front of the greenside bunker. It's almost gone too far. He chips to the heart of the green and has a longish putt for birdie.

Meanwhile, Rory McIlroy has a long birdie putt on the sixth that hits the flag stick. He's at level-par and it's a good start for the former world No.1.

07:46 PM

After a great fightback yesterday...

...it's a disappointing start for Collin Morikawa. He bogeys the third to fall back to one-over. He was strongly fancied coming into the tournament but he playing catch up at the moment and it's not going his way,

07:42 PM

It's a great start for you know who...

....Yep, you've guessed it, it's a birdie for DeChambeau. He's at one-under after the first, which, as coincidence would have it, is the same score his great friend Brooks Koepka is on.

07:38 PM

DeChambeau drove into the right-hand bunker

The same one Rory McIlroy drove into, and, as if Rory, his approach gives him a great chance of birdie. Can he, unlike the Northern Irishman, start his round with a bang?

07:32 PM

Bryson DeChambeau is about to tee off

It's mostly anxiety dreams that wake me up at night, not swing thoughts. But each to their own...

BD
BD

07:28 PM

Paul Casey on his round of 67

"Conditions are perfect for golf, slightly overcast, slight wind, it’s Saturday and you have to try and make birdies and that’s what’s going on today."

07:23 PM

Brooks Koepka birdies the second

His drive left him 74 yards to the hole, his approach left a four-foot birdie chance and he made no mistake. He's at one-under now.

Meanwhile, Justin Thomas birdies the first to also get to one-under for the tournament.

07:20 PM

Rory is going well so far

He's had three sighters at birdie and made one of them. He's one-under for his round through four and level-par for the tournament.

07:18 PM

Brooks Koepka's round is under way

He's parred the first. There have been moments during both the the first two rounds where it looked like he had the spark in his eye and steel in his swing. But he struggled over the back nine on both days and came into the weekend on level-par. Yesterday it was his driving that let him down. Out of position off the tee he left himself too much to do on and around the greens too often. If he can keep the ball on the short stuff today then you suspect he can make that charge we've been waiting for for the past 48 hours.

07:10 PM

Paul Casey

Finishes with a birdie on the 18th to go into the last round at level par. He played really well today, he shot a four-under 67 and is by no means out of it.

07:09 PM

An amazing commentator's curse

Possibly one of the best yet...Ian Poulter, at one-over, has a four-foot putt for par at the 15th when Claude Harmon , on Sky says (when he starts his stroke): 'He's such a great putter'. Cue it being pulled and a bogey on the card. Harmon owes the Englishman, now on two-over, a drink.

07:03 PM

Rory is on the birdie train

Not sure I am a fan of that phrase but I used it anyway...will have a think over whether it gets used again tonight, please bear with me...anyway, it sums up what's happened, McIlroy has birdied the second. He bombed his drive 335 yards down the fairway leaving him 61 yards to the hole. The approach went to within four feet and he made no mistake with the short putt...He's now at level-par. That's the start he was looking for.

06:55 PM

As soon as I posted that Casey video

He then went and missed a six-foot par putt at the 17th. That's back-to-back bogeys and he's now back to one-over for the tournament and three-under for the day.

06:51 PM

Paul is making his Case for a Sunday charge

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06:45 PM

And Rory...

...misses the birdie putt on the high side. He would have wanted to scare the hole more than that...poor start with the flat stick. He'll stay at one-over.

06:41 PM

A great approach from Rory...

...on the first from the bunker. He had 136 to the flag and he hit it pin high and will have a good look at birdie.

06:36 PM

Rory is under way

His opening drive flies into the bunker but it's so far up there he'll have a short iron into the green. Famous last words, but nothing to worry about.

06:35 PM

Dustin Johnson just hasn't got going so far

But he's out there at the moment and on the fifth hole. He birdied the first and has had three pars since. He's on one-over and not out of it if he can find some of that magic that propelled him to world No.1. When on song he looks unstoppable - but for the past few majors he's looked out of sorts. Now would be a good time to get back to his best. If he can shoot a low one today then who knows...

06:31 PM

Paul Casey into red figures AND...

...into the top 10 thanks to a birdie at the 15th. He dropped a shot at 12, but birdies at 13 and 15 see the Englishman to one-under and into contention from the cut line. He's five-under for the round and playing some great golf. The latest birdie was thanks to a fine approach from 205 yards to set up a six-foot putt. Bosh...

06:13 PM

The Champion Golfer of the Year...

...that's Shane Lowry - is in the drink on 18. He went at the pin (short left) and spun back into the water. He then nearly holes his drop and walks off the green with, if you can call it that, a good six. That's one-over for the day and five-over for the tournament. His attention will move now to the defence of his Open Championship title which, due to Covid, he's held for two years now.

Shane Lowry 
Shane Lowry

06:06 PM

Let's have a quick word about Richard Bland

He's over two hours away from getting his round under way, can he win this?

According to his coach, and Sky Golf's Tim Barter, the answer is an undoubted 'yes'.

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06:01 PM

Mickelson has been been giving himself tough par putts

On the fourth he has a 25-foot putt to stay on two-over and this time he misses. He's back to three-over.

05:57 PM

If you're five shots or more off Bland and Henley you can forget it

Apparently...

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05:51 PM

Phil sinks a par putt...

...of seven feet to make par at what is probably the signature hole at Torrey Pines (if it isn't that one, which is it?). Mickelson stays at two-over.

05:42 PM

The par-three third ...

...was 192 yards for the first round. Today they're using a forward tee and it's just 134 yards long. The pin is tucked at the front left (there's a 24-foot drop from tee to green) of the dance floor. Phil Mickelson pulls his tee shot right - to the heart of the green and he's not happy with himself at all.

05:34 PM

Tommy Fleetwood

Has had two top-five finishes at the US Open and was expected to do well here. BUT he's at five-over after seven holes of his third round. He's two-over for the day and it's his driving that's let him down. He's tied for 59th which isn't great but still seven spots higher than Matt Fitzpatrick. The Yorkshireman, like Fleetwood, was expected to do well (keeps the ball on the fairway and is one of the best putters out there) but is four-over for the day (through seven) and is now seven-over for the tournament.

05:26 PM

Here is that save...

...from 'Phil'

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05:24 PM

'Phil' (as you have to call him)

That's Phil Mickelson to you and me, sinks a 24-foot putt for par on the first. He stays at two-under. He shot a two-under 69 yesterday and if he can go lower today then there's a good chance he won't be out of this going into the last round.

05:20 PM

Feeling hot, hot, hot

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05:18 PM

On Sky Sports

They're talking about what could be a winning score here...five-under is talked about so anyone who can get to two-under today will have a decent shout.

Casey is currently at level-par, his playing partner, Jordan Spieth is at one-over (through 10), Phil Mickelson, who has just teed off, is on two-over. Few out there are completely out of this.

05:11 PM

I forgot Rory McIlroy...

...how could I?!

Humblest apologies.

Rory gets his third round started at 7:34. He's looked better over the past two days than his slump of earlier this year and isn't as wild off the tee as he was. There have been hints of the Northern Irishman returning to his best - can he compile a round today to get him into one of the final groups tomorrow? Sticking my neck on the line, I'm going to say 'yes!'

05:06 PM

Paul Casey...

...birdies the ninth and he's at level-par! Four-under for his round and he is in a great position heading into the back nine.

Paul Casey 
Paul Casey

05:02 PM

When does the top of the Leaderboard get under way?

7:45 Tom Hoge, Lee Westwood
7:56 Adam Hadwin, Brooks Koepka
8:07 Collin Morikawa, Justin Thomas
8:18 Harris English, Branden Grace
8:29 Christiaan Bezuidenhout, Bryson DeChambeau
8:40 Guido Migliozzi, Patrick Rodgers
8:51 Xander Schauffele, Scottie Scheffler
9:02 Mackenzie Hughes, Kevin Streelman
9:13 Jon Rahm, Bubba Watson
9:24 Louis Oosthuizen, Matthew Wolff
9:35 Richard Bland, Russell Henley

04:51 PM

Casey on the charge?

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04:50 PM

Other early starters who can smile include

Paul Casey - the man who everyone thinks should have won a major, but is yet to and yet to be a regular challenger come Sunday - is three-under for his round through eight, to take him to one-over for the tournament. Impressive. Can he take that momentum into the back nine to set up a tilt at the title tomorrow?

Ian Poulter is two-under for his round, through five, and back to one-over. That's the same for 2014 US Open champion Martin Kaymer, who is currently on the fifth tee.

04:43 PM

So of the early golfers out on the fairways

Shane Lowry is on three-over for his tournament through 11 - one-under for the day...He wasn't too happy with the early tee time, but, as all good people try to do, he took the positive out of the negative...

Lowry 
Lowry

04:36 PM

Don't dismiss Bland

So who foresaw a final pairing of Richard Bland and Russell Henley for the third round? If you have your hands up you are either lying or someone I need to talk to about next week’s lottery numbers.

The unlikely pair share the halfway lead at Torrey Pines as a host of Big Names lurk not far back ahead of the penultimate 18 holes.

Before the first round, this was seen as a very open major and 48 hours on it’s much the same story. A good round today from anyone within eight shots would set them up for possible final round glory.

At 48 years old Bland is the oldest halfway leader of a US Open and while it’s safe to say many still think he won’t be lifting the trophy come Sunday night, yesterday’s round illustrated that he (i) has the game to do well round the Californian course, and, (ii) will not be fazed by being atop a very impressive leaderboard. Write him off at your peril - having finally tasted title success at his 478th chance last month, Bland is in the form of his life and doubtless is in the frame of mind that will make him dangerous this weekend.

04:02 PM

Good afternoon

The US Open might be shaping up as another major championship with an elder statesman making a mark.

Englishman Richard Bland made a four-under-par 67 in the second round of the U.S. Open on Friday at Torrey Pines in San Diego and began Saturday as co-leader, at the age of 48 the oldest 36-hole leader in tournament history.

"As any golf career, you're going to have peaks and troughs," Bland said. "Of course you are. But I just think every kind of sportsman, sportswoman, they have that never-die or that never-quit attitude, no matter whether it's golf or it's tennis or it's boxing, whatever it is."

Bland shares the lead Friday with Russell Henley, who made 70 on Friday. Bland was among those with early tee times for the second round, and he took advantage by posting seven birdies. He wanted to keep it simple, moving to five-under at the midway mark of the tournament.

"If you just keep putting the ball in play, then you're going to give yourself a chance," Bland said.

Henley moved to six-under before finishing with a bogey on the par-five ninth hole.

South African Louis Oosthuizen (71) and Matthew Wolff (68) are tied for third at four-under. Bubba Watson (67) and Jon Rahm (70), who returned this week after a Covid-19-related layoff, are next at three-under.

About three dozen golfers completed first rounds Friday after play was suspended Thursday because of darkness - a situation caused earlier when the first round was delayed for about 90 minutes because of fog.

Bland's surge provided another example that older golfers in major championships can have success. Phil Mickelson, then 50, won last month's PGA Championship. Mickelson made the cut this week after a second-round 69 put him at two-over for the tournament.

Henley said he doesn't know much about Bland other than he was a recent winner on the European Tour.

"I'm sure he knows nothing about me, too," Henley said.

They'll know more after playing in Saturday's final pairing.

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