US Open: Rory McIlroy stays in contention at Pebble Beach

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Rory McIlroy

Rory McIlroy admits he will need a great round to secure a second US Open title after struggling to find top gear at Pebble Beach.

McIlroy began the third round four shots off the lead held by Gary Woodland and ended it five adrift of the American after a low-key 70 featuring three birdies and two bogeys.

“I think it is in there. I definitely think I can shoot 65 or 66 on this golf course,” said McIlroy, who won the US Open by eight shots at Congressional in 2011 but has not lifted a major title since the 2014 US PGA.

“That’s probably what it is going to take tomorrow. Everything has got to be on. You’ve got to get off to a fast start, you’ve got to play the par fives well and you need to hit it in the fairways all day. It’s difficult. It is possible, but it is difficult.

“I’ve hit the ball in the fairway for the most part, I’ve been smart, I’ve hit to the right part of the greens. Today I felt like I didn’t get as much out the round as I could have but at the same time at a US Open, you have to hang around.

“As much as you like to think you get four opportunities a year to win these things (majors), you might only get one or two depending on how you play. I’ve got a little opportunity tomorrow.

“I’m obviously got some ground to make up, but at the same time, it’s tough. Leaders can make bogeys, make mistakes, and I’m going to have to rely on them doing that. But I need a great round out of myself.”

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US Open: Gary Woodland takes one-shot lead over Justin Rose

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Justin Rose trails Gary Woodland by a single shot heading into the final round of the US Open after watching the American defy the odds to remain in pole position at Pebble Beach.

Woodland chipped in for an unlikely par on the 12th and holed from 40 feet for another on the 14th, but Rose maintained his focus to birdie both holes as he seeks a second US Open title following his 2013 triumph at Merion.

Rose also birdied the 18th from a greenside bunker for the third day running to complete a 68 and finish 10 under par, with Woodland 11 under after carding three birdies and a solitary bogey in his 69.

“What I was pleased about was the tougher the shot, the better I seemed to play, and I’ll gain a bit of confidence from that tomorrow,” Rose said.

“I’ll do everything I can overnight and just keep what’s working well and try to hit one or two more fairways and greens. You can’t force it, you’ve got to let it happen and hopefully rely on some experience.”

World number one Brooks Koepka, who is aiming to become just the second player to win three consecutive US Open titles, is four shots off the lead alongside former Open champion Louis Oosthuizen and American Chez Reavie, with Rory McIlroy another stroke back.

Koepka, who carded a flawless 68 and has not dropped a shot since his eighth hole on Friday, is seeking a fifth major title in his last nine starts and said: “I just enjoy the pressure of having to hit a good golf shot or make a putt when you need to.

“Going into tomorrow, just stay patient. If you are within three shots on the back nine, anything can happen, so hang in there and keep fighting.”

McIlroy had wanted to plot a “boring” course to a second US Open title and got largely what he wished for, carding three birdies and two bogeys in a round of 70.

“Even though I’m still a few off the lead, it’s a wonderful opportunity for me to go out there and I guess try to add to my major tally,” said the Northern Irishman, whose last major victory was the 2014 US PGA Championship.

“I’ve been very pleased with how I’ve played all week. I felt, for the most part, today I did the right things and I need to do 18 more holes of that, but just get a little bit more out of the round tomorrow than I did today.

“I’m expecting the conditions to be similar, but I could see the course just getting a little firmer and a little faster and just being a touch trickier.”

The European quintet of Danny Willett, 2010 champion Graeme McDowell, Jon Rahm, Matt Wallace and Henrik Stenson are seven shots off the lead on four under.

Willett had set the early clubhouse target on four under, the former Masters champion carding six birdies and two bogeys in a round of 67, the lowest round of the day and his first sub-par round in 16 attempts at the US Open.

“The last few years the US Open has been a bombers’ paradise so this course evens out the field in that way,” Willett said.

“It does not favour any one type of player, so at the end of the week you are going to get the best player winning, as it should be.”

McDowell, who eagled the 18th from 35 feet in his round of 70, said: “It was really cool to make three there.

“I think Tiger (Woods) did something similar in 2010, from memory, hitting that three-wood from behind the tree. Mine wasn’t as fancy as that. It was a nice little cutty three-wood from 245 slightly to the right and came off nicely.

“Obviously I’m somewhat in the mix tomorrow, but I’ll need something pretty special.”

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US Open: Tiger Woods fuming after disappointing bogey-bogey finish on day two

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Tiger Woods

Tiger Woods made no attempt to hide his frustration after two late bogeys left him seven shots behind clubhouse leader Justin Rose in the US Open.

Woods was on course for a first bogey-free round in any US Open since his closing 67 sealed a record 15-shot win at Pebble Beach in 2000 when he carded one birdie and 15 pars in his first 16 holes on Friday.

However, the 43-year-old then dropped shots on the eighth and ninth to card a highly disappointing 72 and leave himself with an uphill task over the weekend to claim a 16th major title.

Asked afterwards if he was “steaming”, Woods told reporters: “Yeah, I am. Not a very good finish. Yeah, I’m a little hot right now. I just signed my card about a minute ago. So need a little time to cool down a little bit.

“I had a couple of opportunities there but overall I kept leaving myself above the hole. And unlike yesterday, when I missed it I missed in the correct spots below the hole, today I never had that many looks from below the hole. And the one I did have I made at 11.”

Despite the poor finish Woods has not given up hope of adding a fourth US Open victory to the Masters title he won at Augusta National in April.

“Right now I’m still in the ball game,” he added. “There’s so many guys with a chance to win. We’ve got a long way to go, and, you know, we’ll see how it shapes up for tomorrow.

“The golf course can be a little bit faster, a little bit more springy than it was today, and scores will continue to back up a little bit.

“They’ve got it (the course) right where they want it. It’s just a matter of how much will it dry out from morning to afternoon. The fairways were a bit slow and soft. I don’t think they put mowers on them this morning.

“And the short areas, the run-ups, man, they’re firm. So if they get the greens anywhere like that, it will be a hell of a test.”

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