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Seamus Power shoots up US Open leaderboard as McIlroy scrambles to stay in the hunt

Waterford-man Power was in a tie for 11th after shooting 70 with McIlroy in a tie for seventh after some heroic work on the back nine

Image: Charles Krupa

Updated Jun 19th 2022, 8:00 AM

ON A DRAMATIC DAY at the US Open Waterford’s Seamus Power surged up the leaderboard to end the day in a tie for 12th, five shots off the lead held by Matt Fitzpatrick and Will Zalatoris.

Defending champion Jon Rahm is a shot off the lead in third.

World number one Scottie Scheffler, Keegan Bradley and Adam Hadwin are two shots off the pace, with Ulster’s Rory McIlroy, Sam Burns and Joel Dahmen another stroke back and the last of just nine players in red figures.

Saturday is called moving day for a reason – and Power’s stunning eagle on eight resulted in him moving up 19 places from where he started the day. His even par 70 at one stage looked like being better as he was two-under down the back nine. A couple of bogeys halted his momentum.

McIlroy, meanwhile, had a 73 – yet he may remember it proudly, as his putting on the back nine was sensational. He started with three bogeys in his first six holes and then found form on the greens, with eight one-putts in the final 10 holes.

He is three off the lead and remains confident he can end a major drought that dates back to 2014. “It is a long time ago (since I won) but I remember the feeling and I want that feeling back again,” he said.

Power was also feeling positive after a superb round in difficult conditions.

Afterwards he said: “The wind was blowing really hard out there and when you got to the more exposed greens, you really realised that then.

“It was tough out there. If you made a mistake, you got punished. Every hole was difficult.

“You need to be accurate and the wind made it hard to be accurate. It was pretty tough going.”

It was for just about everyone but American Zalatoris, runner-up in last month’s PGA Championship, fired a three-under par 67 to seize the lead in Saturday’s third round as brisk wind and brutal rough tormented golf’s stars. Fitzpatrick then joined him at the top of the leaderboard.

Spain’s Jon Rahm briefly overtook them both to move to five-under on 17 but he got unlucky at the last, finding the bunker off the tee – despite hitting his drive well – and he ended up with a double bogey to end the day on three-under.

Zalatoris, also a runner-up in last year’s Masters, barely avoided disaster himself on 18, a tee shot right into trampled rough and second into a bunker answered with a great third shot and par putt from just outside five feet to end his round.

Zalatoris, in only his ninth major start, sank a 40-foot birdie putt at the par-3 second, a 15-footer to birdie the fourth and answered his lone bogey at the seventh with birdie putts from 19 feet at nine and five feet at 15 before his narrow escape at 18.

But from an Irish perspective, the day belonged to Power who started the day in 31st and ended it five shots off the lead in 12th.

Key to his round was his putting. The eighth has been kind to him all week at this demanding course, Power getting a birdie on it in each of his opening two rounds before today’s eagle saw him move to one-under for the tournament. At that stage he was in a tie for 13th.

He had actually got off to a tricky start, however, bogeying the par-3 second before five successive pars followed. Then came an incredible approach to the eighth which left him with a ten-footer for eagle. He rolled it in and was on a roll on the back nine with birdies on the par-3 eleventh and also the par-4 thirteenth saw him move four shots off the lead.

“You don’t get too many chances out there so at eight, you hope for a birdie but obviously an eagle was massive,” said Power, “because it turned my round around. I struggled at the start, made a few saves and then that eagle got me on the right path.”

However, his momentum was checked at the 14th – a par-five – that he bogeyed.

He then had pars at 15 and 16 and a bogey on 17. He finished with a 70, a more than respectable total given the conditions.

History was on McIlroy’s side as he went into the third round of the US Open firmly in contention for a fifth major title and first since 2014.

That is because 25 of the last 26 US Open winners were tied sixth or better after 36 holes, with Webb Simpson the lone exception when he came from six shots behind and joint 29th at The Olympic Club in 2012.

But McIlroy got off to a terrible start.

World number three McIlroy left a 16-foot par putt on the lip of the cup at the second, missed a 14-footer for par at the third and then missed a six-foot birdie putt at the fourth. He then had a bogey on six to compound matters.

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He faced an uphill battle to remain in contention for the 122nd US Open as breezy conditions played havoc at Brookline.

Seeking his fifth major title and a first since 2014, McIlroy got away with a pulled drive on the first, only to drop shots on the second, third and sixth after failing to get up and down from off the green.

“I just found it impossible to hit the greens on the front nine,” he said afterwards.

“There was so much crosswind and the greens were getting firmer. You were just looking for some respite on some holes. I did well to birdie 11 and then I made an error on 12.

“Then you just grind it out on the last six holes. To still be under par for the tournament – in those conditions – is a really good result because that round could have got away from me out there. But I didn’t let it happen.”

Scheffler, seeking his fifth title and second major of the year, had an up and down day. He was 6-under through eight holes at The Country Club, 3-under for the round. Two bogeys in the next three holes saw him drop to 4-under through 11. He finished his round 2-under.

Sixty four players had made the halfway cut at three over par, with Ireland’s Shane Lowry and Ryder Cup team-mate Sergio Garcia among those to miss out by a single shot.

Lowry found himself on the wrong side of the draw, with those playing early on Thursday and late on Friday averaging 1.6 strokes lower than the other half of the field.

And the 2019 Open champion was not impressed to see some of the greens apparently being watered during play on Friday, writing “In what stratosphere is this fair USGA” over an Instagram image of staff spraying the 13th green.

Those who did make the cut were separated by just eight shots and are no doubt all still eyeing the record first prize of 3.15million US dollars (£2.58m), 850,000 dollars (£695,000) less than the individual winner’s cheque in last week’s first LIV Golf event at Centurion Club.

You can keep up to date by following the leaderboard here.

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