Merion bares her teeth

6/16/2013 2:00:00 AM
Charl Schwartzel   (Getty Images)
Charl Schwartzel (Getty Images)

Merion bared her teeth over the closing holes and nipped at the European Tour challenge on the closing stages of the third round of the US Open but with seven members within six shots of the lead, that challenge is still very much alive.

The 253 yard par three 17th and 530 yard par four 18th, which was not birdied at all in the third round, were always going to be a tough finish and as Phil Mickelson looks ahead to taking a one shot lead into the final round, there are three European Tour Members within two strokes and seven within six strokes of the lead.

Charl Schwartzel, at level par alongside Hunter Mahan and Steve Stricker – a player bidding to become the oldest first time winner of the US Open in history - is only one behind after a one under par 69 despite bogeys on both the last two holes.

“Whenever you shoot an under par on Saturday at the US Open, you can't be too disappointed,” said Schwartzel. “There are a few easy holes out there that you got to take advantage of, which I did.  And then you've got the hard ones, which are where you come in and finish on.  So you're going to get some and you're going to give some.  So anything under par is fantastic here.”

Luke Donald played flawless golf for 16 holes and was leading with two to play but a dropped shot on the 17th after finding sand and when Mickelson birdied it was a two shot swing. Then, after a good drive, the Englishman found all sorts of trouble on the last, his two-iron approach sinking into thick rough short and right and from there careered over the green into more trouble. A chop to 15 feet and two putts later and Donald was back to one over par and heads into the final round two behind.

“I should have done better,” he said afterwards. “It was disappointing.  “But I'll take the positives out of today, a really solid 16 holes of golf that I played and I'm only two back.

“Through 16 holes, I could have been four or five under and really was playing as good a golf as I have played for a while. I was pretty much in control my ball and I'll forget about those two holes and carry on tomorrow.”

Like Schwartzel, and indeed Mahan, Rose also dropped shots on the last two holes, but is right in the mix.

“One or two shots on this golf course can disappear in a heartbeat,” he said. “There's a lot of momentum swings out here.  I feel like I'm in great position.  If you would have said to me, Thursday morning, hey, this is where you're going to be entering Sunday, I would absolutely have taken it.”

Gonzalo Fernandez-Castaño, playing with the World Number One and Two, outplayed both Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy with a round of 72 and he is still within striking distance heading into the final 18 holes at five over par. Likewise for Henrik Stenson, who had a wonderful run of five birdies from the ninth before successive double bogeys on 14 and 15, Ian Poulter and Nicolas Colsaerts, who ran up an unfortunate triple on the last after getting tangled in trees on the left.

The last five holes are one of the toughest closing stretches in Major Championship golf but the European Tour challenge is ready for one final round.