US Open set for tense climax as early starters have mixed success at Brookline

The good, the bad and the ugly were all on display as Brookline looked set to stage a tense climax to the 122nd US Open.

As leaders Matt Fitzpatrick and Will Zalatoris prepared to continue their pursuit for a first major title, the early starters were showing what might be possible in the final round.

The good golf was coming primarily from Italy’s Guido Migliozzi, who had covered the front nine in 31 thanks to an eagle, three birdies and a solitary bogey.

The bad golf was coming from a number of sources, including two-time US Open winner Brooks Koepka, who had made two birdies but also two bogeys and two double bogeys to be out in 39 and slump to nine over par.

And the ugly was courtesy of American Grayson Murray, who hurled his putter into the fescue grass after making a mess of the seventh and then snapped a club over his knee following a poor approach to the 10th.

At the other end of the leaderboard, Fitzpatrick and Zalatoris shared the lead on four under par, a shot ahead of defending champion Jon Rahm, who had briefly held the outright lead until a double bogey on the 18th in round three.

Zalatoris lost a play-off to Justin Thomas in the US PGA Championship at Southern Hills last month, where Fitzpatrick went out in the final group in the last round alongside Mito Pereira.

A closing 73 meant Fitzpatrick missed out on the play-off by two shots, but the 27-year-old Englishman has been buoyed all week by the memories of his US Amateur victory at Brookline in 2013.

“I think up until Southern Hills, I didn’t really appreciate how hard it is actually to win a major,” Fitzpatrick said after his third round of 68.

“I’ve not challenged really up until then. I think, myself included, and people on the outside maybe think it’s easier than it is.

“You just have to look at Tiger (Woods). He knocked off so many in such a quick span. That’s why I think people think, oh, it’s a piece of cake, it’s like a regular Tour event. But it’s not.

Matt Fitzpatrick
Matt Fitzpatrick watches his shot on the 18th hole during the first round of the US Open (Charlie Riedel/AP)

“It brings a lot more to the mental aspect of the game than other regular events, and for me I think it’s been a big change from the US PGA to come here to a golf course I know so well, and it’s given me extra confidence.”

All three previous US Opens held at Brookline ended in a play-off and tournament officials had made reference to two of those on the final two holes.

The pin position on the 17th was representative of the one used in the final round in 1913, when local amateur Francis Ouimet made a critical birdie on his way to victory.

And the 18th was in a similar position to that used in the final round in 1988, when Curtis Strange saved par from a greenside bunker to force a play-off against Nick Faldo.

Strange won the 18-hole play-off by four shots and successfully defended his title the following year.