Paul Casey and Justin Rose are just three shots off the lead and in a share of third place going into the final round of the US Open with only Australian Aaron Baddeley, leading at two over par, and World Number One, Tiger Woods, ahead of them.
Tony Jacklin was the last European to win the US Open in 1970 but both Casey and Rose are well placed to emulate that feat at Oakmont Country Club, as are Angel Cabrera and Niclas Fasth, who complete the European Tour quartet placed in the top ten after the third round.
Woods moved into the hunt for his 13th Major Championship by delivering a master-class in ball-striking from tee to green and but for his putter he could have been four of five under par for his round. Instead he had to settle for a 69 and lies at four over par 214 and will go out in the final group with Baddeley, who birdied the last for a 70 and a two-stroke cushion.
Casey suffered mixed fortunes, picking up two early birdies at the second and fourth but six bogeys and just two more birdies resulted in a two over par 72. But at five over par 215, Casey is very much in the mix and will play in the penultimate group with Canadian Stephen Ames.
“I am quite happy with that,” said Casey. “I have got to take the positives out of it. Sure, I made a couple of mistakes and a couple of bogeys but bogeys won’t necessarily hurt you in the US Open. You have got to move on and try and make it up on the next hole and that is what I did.
“I was enjoying it today. The crowds were fantastic. A lot of people wishing me on for a 63 today. That didn’t happen but I am very pleased with where I am in this golf event and looking forward to tomorrow.
“Tomorrow has to be fairways, greens and try and make birdies. You can’t overcomplicate this. You have to go out there and strike it well off the tee and if you do that you give yourself an opportunity. That’s what I have to do tomorrow. Stick the ball in the fairway which I did pretty well today and hopefully make some putts at the end.”
Rose should also be pleased with his 73 as he looks to win his first Major Championship.
“There are two guys ahead of me, obviously Aaron is played well today and he's a good front runner, and Tiger is not bad at front running either,” he said.
“So at the end of the day, I'm in the fortunate position to go out there and just chase at it. Obviously nothing to lose from that position, and I'll certainly be enjoying my chances tomorrow and hopefully put in a good performance.
“I made some putts coming down the stretch this afternoon, and that excites me for tomorrow, because I felt like I haven't been rolling my putter well all week and I was excited about what I felt.”
Rose will draw strength from his last two tournaments, two of the biggest in world golf – the Masters and the BMW PGA Championship – both of which he challenged for the title.
“The last couple tournaments I've played I've been right in the hunt, right down to the wire. Obviously Augusta is the probably the biggest thing I can draw on. I was one back playing the 17th. So, again, right in the hunt, and I was in the position there where I was doing the chasing, and I got on a nice roll. And hopefully I can feed off those good vibes tomorrow.
“And last time I played (BMW PGA Championship) I finished birdie, par, birdie to get myself into a playoff; and try and play off those positive thoughts.”
Cabrera led for much of the third round but slipped back into a share of seventh place with four bogeys on the back nine for a 76. At six over par and only four off the lead, the big-hitting Argentine has the arsenal to mount a final day charge though.
Fasth also let a promising position slip. At three over par with six holes to play he was tied for the lead but double bogeyed the 13th and dropped two more shots coming in to finish six strokes back after a round of 75.
Similarly Nick Dougherty was furious with the way he finished, dropping four shots in his last four holes to finish at nine over par, but he has every reason to be proud of his performance playing alongside Woods. For 14 holes Dougherty held his own as Woods mounted his charge and it was only at the round drew to a close, that the score started to slip away.
“I was in good shape until those last four” said Dougherty. “I hung in there. My short game was very good and when I was level par through 14 I was pleased with that playing with Tiger. Then it caught up with me at the end. My putter saved me the first day and saved me most of today as well. I am disappointed.”
As for Woods, Dougherty had the privilege of witnessing an exceptional round at close quarters.
“He was awesome,” said the Englishman. “To be honest if he had putted as well as I did he would have shot six under. He was very clinical. Tee to green he is just the phenomenal. It will take someone pretty special to beat him tomorrow.
He drove it well and he is so good with his irons when he drives it well he is not going to miss greens. He was just brilliant. He played far better than 69. It should have been a 66 minimum.”
Not surprisingly Woods looks like being the man to beat after he hit an astonishing 17 of the 18 greens in regulation.
“I felt like I hit the ball pretty good today. Hit a lot of good putts that grazed the edge, but, hey, I put myself right there in the tournament. Right in the mix. I'm in second place, I think, so I'm right there.”
The only man ahead of Woods is Baddeley, who will face a whole new experience as he looks to follow Geoff Ogilvy as the second successive Australian to win the title.
“Tomorrow, obviously I'm going to deal with some emotions because I've never been in this position before. But I play golf, I've worked my whole life to be in this position so I'm going to embrace it. I'm going to enjoy it, and I feel like if I play well, if I play my game, I feel that there's a good chance coming down the last hole if I've got the lead.”