England’s Kenneth Ferrie goes into the final round of first US Major Championship tied for the lead with US PGA and Masters Champion Phil Mickelson hoping to become the first European in 36 years to win the US Open. Ferrie leads a magnificent cast of eight European Tour Members within five strokes of the lead at Winged Foot Golf Club.
Ferrie shot a one over par 71 to lie at two over par 212 to tie Phil Mickelson, one of only two players in the field to break 70. Australian Geoff Ogilvy is one back after a round of 72 while the European Tour’s Colin Mongomerie, Ian Poulter and Vijay Singh share fifth place with American Steve Stricker on five over par, just three off the lead.
Padriag Harrington remains very much in contention despite a triple bogey on the last in the group at six over par 216 while Luke Donald, Peter Hedblom and Trevor Immelman are among those five off the lead heading into the final afternoon in New York.
But it is Ferrie and Mickelson who will make an unlikely final pairing. Ferrie is playing his first US Open and only the fourth Major of his career. Mickelson, winner of the 2005 US PGA Championship and the Masters Tournament in April is gunning for his third successive Major title, a feat only Ben Hogan and Tiger Woods have managed previously.
Ferrie again displayed remarkable composure and would have led on his own but for three putting the last for his fourth bogey of the day, while Mickelson birdied two of the last five to card a 69 - the joint lowest round of the day.
"It's my first time in this situation so it's going to be a bit daunting but if I keep doing what I've been doing there's no reason why I can't go out there and compete," said Ferrie, who carded one birdie, one eagle and four birdies.
"I don't think many people are going to give me a chance of winning. It's my first time and I don't know myself how I'm going to handle it.
"I could go out all guns blazing and play great or shrink under the spotlight. This is the biggest stage in golf and so far I'm front and centre.
"My whole game is based on fairways and greens, I don't overpower courses like Tiger (Woods). This course is very good for my sort of game and I'm a huge fan of the set-up."
Montgomerie began the day just one shot off the lead and with high hopes of ending his quest for a Major title at the 58th attempt. Rounds of 69 and 71 for a level par halfway total meant the 42 year old Scot was in the final group at the US Open for the first time since 1994.
But the eight-time European Number One suffered a woeful start to his round, dropping five shots in the opening four holes to slide down the leaderboard.
All of Montgomerie's tee shots on those holes found the rough to the left of the fairway, and on the par three third he was only able to advance the ball into a greenside bunker. From there he splashed out to six feet but two-putted for a double bogey five, and another shot went at the next as well.
But Montgomerie steadied the ship to complete the last 14 holes in level par to finish at five over par 75 and only three off the lead.
“I got off to a flier obviously,” quipped Montgomerie. “Five over after four was a disaster but five over to finish was a fantastic effort. Pat myself on the back for finishing the last 14 holes level par. First four holes missed three fairways a yard left and bogeyed them all and then doubled the par three. It is easily done. But 67 tomorrow and big, big chance. If I can do that I have a great chance of winning this thing. There are only three guys ahead of me and if I can drive the ball like I can I have every chance.”
Poulter is also on five over par after double bogeying the last. The Ryder Cup star was on course for the joint lowest round of the week until missing the green with his approach. His chip to the elevated green was then not hit hard enough and rolled all the way back to his feet.
"If I evaluate the whole round I've played awesome," said Poulter. "I hit a lot of fairways and good spots on the greens to have some birdie putts.
"On the last I was a yard from perfection, I hit the shot I wanted and it was a yard short. I'm hitting it great and feel good and that's the main thing.
"A lot of European players are up there and it's not going to be long before one of us manages to win a major.
"Three shots is nothing, it's right in there with a shout and I'm not going to be that far away."
Ireland's Padraig Harrington is another shot back after a triple-bogey seven on the 18th. He attempted to hit a fairway wood for his second shot from the heavy rough, then found a greenside bunker with his third, and eventually three-putted from ten feet.
“Very disappointing finish,” said the Irishman. “Par at the last and I am right in there. It doesn’t give me much room to manoeuvre with tomorrow. I will have to play very well and that’s it.”
Mickelson will start the final round with plenty of support in historic quest for a third consecutive Major title. He said: "I'm very excited to have fought back on the back nine and get back into contention and a tie for the lead. It should be a fun day on Sunday.
"It's such a tough course I don't know what score it will take to win. I'm not entering it with a number in mind."