Rickie Fowler’s agonizing finish sees Wyndham Clark take share of US Open lead into final round

Rickie Fowler led the US Open by two shots heading into the last hole of his third round. When the 34-year-old tees off on Sunday, he will do so tied at the top.

The American winced in pain as his five-foot putt for par agonizingly rolled around the lip of the 18th hole, as compatriot Wyndham Clark promptly birdied to rub salt into the wound and set up a tantalizing final round battle at Los Angeles Country Club.

“Bummer to have that one slip away, but tomorrow is a whole new day,” said Fowler, who holed a stunning 69-foot putt at the 13th hole.

“That’s when the tournament really starts.”

Tied at 10-under overall, Fowler and Clark each sit 18 holes from a dream first major title after shooting even-par 70 and one-under 69 respectively. It marked the highest rounds recorded yet by both players, as more Californian sunshine firmed up fairways and greens, leading to a rise in scores across the field.

Clark continued to dazzle on his first ever US Open weekend, rebounding superbly after back-to-back bogeys at the 11th and 12th holes threatened to send him sliding.

Having missed the cut at both previous outings at the tournament and with a tied-75th finish at 2021 PGA Championship his best ever major finish, the 29-year-old is in uncharted waters, but remains unfazed.

“I felt like I handled all of it really well,” Clark said.

“Two back-to-back bogeys which were unfortunate but followed it up with birdie, and then birdieing at the end I felt like I handled all the adversity, and I feel like my best round is still out there.”

McIlroy in the hunt

The duo will tee off together at 5:30 p.m. ET tomorrow, but will have to hold off the chase of seasoned winner Rory McIlroy to achieve their major aspirations. Just one stroke behind, the Northern Irishman remains within striking distance of ending a nine-year wait for a fifth career major.

The world No. 3 looked dialed in from the outset, booming a 388-yard effort with his maiden swing of the day to record the longest drive of the day from the first tee.

“Felt like I played really smart, solid golf,” McIlroy said.

“Hit a lot of fairways, hit a lot of greens. Sort of felt somewhat stress free out there, if you can ever call golf at a U.S. Open stress free.”

A blazing finish catapulted Scottie Scheffler into contention, with the world No.1 heading into Sunday three shots behind Clark and Fowler.

Scheffler closed with an eagle and a birdie to card 68 and reignite his hopes of adding to his 2022 Masters title.

“Definitely a huge momentum boost going into tomorrow, and hopefully I’ll just keep it rolling,” he said.

Schauffele loses more ground

McIlroy is the only non-American inside the top six, with Harris English a shot behind Scheffler in fifth, one stroke ahead of Dustin Johnson and Xander Schauffele, who lost further ground on the lead after a rollercoaster Saturday.

Schauffele, who had set a record-breaking first round pace alongside Fowler, shot three bogeys across his first five holes, and three more in the closing six, to card 73.

Incredibly, the damage could have been even worse, as the seven-time champion scrambled brilliantly to only escape with a bogey at the first hole after taking three swings to escape a bunker.

With reigning champion Matt Fitzpatrick nine shots back from Clark and Fowler, a title defense looks unlikely, as does a second consecutive major for Brooks Koepka. Last month’s major champion trails Fitzpatrick by a stroke at even-par overall.

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