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Dublin: 9 °C Tuesday 17 September, 2019

Early double bogey trims Johnson's US Open lead

Defending champion Brooks Koepka, Sweden’s Henrik Stenson, England’s Tommy Fleetwood were all one-over in the early going.

Dustin Johnson reacts to his tee shot on the second hole.
Dustin Johnson reacts to his tee shot on the second hole.
Image: SIPA USA/PA Images

DUSTIN JOHNSON’S FIRST double bogey of the week saw the world number one’s US Open lead shrink to two strokes Saturday early in the third round at Shinnecock Hills.

Johnson was the only player under par through the two punishing first rounds, taking a four-stroke lead into the third at four-under par.

But he three-putted the par-three second to slip to two over for the tournament, as England’s Justin Rose chipped in for a birdie at the third to move to even par.

Defending champion Brooks Koepka, Sweden’s Henrik Stenson, England’s Tommy Fleetwood were all one-over in the early going while Charley Hoffman, who started the day tied for second at even par, bogeyed two of his first three holes to slip back.

Shinnecock had shown a softer side early Saturday, when Daniel Berger posted a four-under-par 66 to climb the leaderboard.

But the two-time US PGA Tour winner said the course was firming up and getting harder as his round wore on.

“I think it’s going to be extremely difficult,” said Berger, who was in the clubhouse on three-over-par 213. “If someone shoots four-under this afternoon it’s more like eight-under.”

Berger rolled in birdie putts of 30 feet, 23 feet and 26 feet, finishing with six birdies and flirting with a 65 that would hae been the best ever US Open round at Shinnecock.

But Berger said pin placements near the borders of the sloping greens were particularly challenging.

“You hit one by, three feet past the hole and it’s going 40 yards away from the green,” he said.

“There’s just so many run-offs, and you have these small little landing targets of 10 feet where you actually have a chance to have a birdie putt,” Berger added.

“I hit plenty of really good shots in there. I hit one on the par five, number five, that I landed 10 feet from the hole, and it ended up 50 yards away. So that’s just how it is out here.”

That may have been what led to Phil Mickelson’s astonishing performance at the 13th green — where after watching a putt roll past the cup and head down a hill he ran over and batted the still moving ball back toward the hole.

With the two-stroke penalty Mickelson took a sextuple bogey 10.

With the winds picking up, it promised to be a long afternoon, but history was on Johnson’s side.

The last four winners of the US Open have led or shared the 36-hole lead, including Johnson himself at Oakmont in 2016 and Brooks Koepka last year at Erin Hills.

And in 117 prior editions, six players have led by four or more shots through 36 holes and only one of them — Tom McNamara in 1909 — failed to win.

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