Louis Oosthuizen, one of three players under par, shot his 10th career US Open round of 68 or better on Saturday as he cruised his way up the leaderboard to third place on one-under for the tournament – just four shots off the lead.
Making his US Open debut, Matthew Wolff carded a sublime five-under 65 to take the lead, dropping just one shot while hitting just two fairways throughout his round. Bryson de Chambeau is in second, two strokes back, and he hit just three fairways.
Oosthuizen’s third round saw him hit five fairways, but, crucially, he hit 14 of the 18 greens in regulation which set up one of only six rounds of under par on another tough day.
Oosthuizen is the seventh player in US Open history to record 10 or more rounds of 68 or lower, and just the second in the group to have never won the championship. The other is six-time runner-up Phil Mickelson, with 11 such rounds.
If you are part of a group that includes Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Tom Watson, Phil Mickelson, Greg Norman, Dustin Johnson and Craig Wood, you have to be doing something right. And Oosthuizen, owner of one of golf’s smoothest swings, has done a lot of things right in the game, including a victory in the Open Championship at St Andrews a decade ago.
Unfortunately, the list to which Oosthuizen is linked is bound by the distinction of finishing runner-up in all four major championships. And all but Johnson and Oosthuizen have won more than one major. Oosthuizen has a chance to change that on Sunday at Winged Foot Golf Club.
“Yeah, any under-par round at a US Open you’ll take,” said Oosthuizen, 37, who has taken the liberty of shooting quite a few under-par rounds in a US Open career that began in 2010 at Pebble Beach, a month before he blitzed the The Open field on the Old Course, where he won by seven shots.
His third-round 68 marked his 12th round in the 60s in this championship. On Thursday, when he fired a 67, he surpassed Nicklaus, the four-time US Open champion, for most rounds of 67 or lower with his eighth such score.
Then there was his performance in the 2015 championship at Chambers Bay, when he opened with a 77 and then proceeded to dismantle the joint with rounds of 66-66-67 to post a championship-record 199 for his final 54 holes that earned him a share of second place with Johnson. Included in that performance was a 29 on his last nine holes, only the fourth time in US Open history such a score was posted.
Saturday’s round featured four birdies against two bogeys. Only Wolff, who had an amazing 65, Zach Johnson (68), Rory McIlroy (68) and Alex Noren (67) had fewer bogeys on the day, one apiece.
“I think we got very lucky with the draw today,” Oosthuizen said. “Waking up this morning, watching a bit of golf, you could see it was really cold, windy, and definitely died down for us. The sun came out a little bit. Definitely lucky on the draw today.”
The wind, the temperatures and the course itself aren’t going to be appreciably different for Sunday’s final round. He knows that just being a little more accurate that the others won’t cut it with final-round pressure also to contend with, but he does have experience winning a major, something youngsters Wolff and Bryson DeChambeau have yet to achieve.
“I need to play pretty similar to what I did today,” Oosthuizen said, probably referring to his ability to limit mistakes. “You need to hit fairways. I think everyone out there now, especially on this golf course, knows you need to be patient. A lot can happen even in the last two, three holes, so try and get yourself in a position with three, four, five holes to go and see what you can do.”
Oosthuizen has 14 worldwide wins in his professional career, but he hasn’t taken a title in America. A US Open victory would be the ultimate way to change that.
With reporting by Dave Shedloski