PEBBLE BEACH, California: Gary Woodland delivered a gritty back nine display Saturday, coming up with key par saves in a 2-under 69 to stay one stroke in front of Justin Rose heading into the fourth round of the US Open at Pebble Beach.
Woodland, a three-time US PGA Tour winner in search of his first major title, finished 54 holes with on 11-under 202 to stay in front of former US Open champion Rose, who capped his 3-under 68 with a birdie at 18 for a 10-under total of 203.
It was another three strokes back to a group headed by two-time defending champion Brooks Koepka, who stayed within striking distance of a fifth major title with a 68 for 7-under 206.
Woodland, who stretched his two-shot overnight lead to as many as four on the front nine, led Rose by three after a birdie at 11.
He was facing a dropped shot at 12 after finding the rough on the lip of a bunker, but chipped in to save par, preserving a two-shot lead as Rose drained a nine-foot birdie putt.
After rolling in a four-foot par-saving putt at 13, Woodland produced another unlikely save, draining a 42-foot putt at the par-5 14th — where Rose also birdied.
“I felt really comfortable today, comfortable with my game,” the 35-year-old said. “I’m excited to be where I am right now.”
Woodland’s nine-foot birdie putt burned the edge at 18, where Rose closed the gap with his fifth birdie of the day.
“I’m certainly reading the greens well,” said Rose, whose putting has kept him going all despite a wealth of missed fairways and greens.
Rose and Woodland both set themselves up for the weekend with rounds of 65 — Rose on Thursday and Woodland on Friday — matching the lowest US Open round ever posted at Pebble Beach and first achieved by Tiger Woods in 2000. On another cool, overcast day Pebble Beach continued to offer birdie chances, but there was plenty of danger lurking among the spectacular ocean views.
“If you don’t drive it good around here or struggle with your iron play, you’re going to struggle,” said former British Open champion Louis Oosthuizen of South Africa, who carded a one-under 70 to get to 7-under along with Koepka and Chez Reavie, who signed for a 68.
“It’s so, so tough, the rough,” said Oosthuizen, who thought the US Golf Association found an ideal balance, even if scores were startlingly low for a US Open.
“You still need to hit fairways, still need to hit greens, and it’s nice to see red numbers in a US Open. I think it’s a little bit more exciting.”
Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy found the going tough enough.
McIlroy rebounded from a bogey at the par-3 17th with his third birdie of the day at 18 for a 1-under 70 that left him alone in sixth on6-under 207.
“I felt for the most part today I did the right things,” McIlroy said.
“And I need to do 18 more holes of that, but just get a little bit more out of the round tomorrow than I did today,” added the four-time major winner who was a stroke in front of Americans Matt Kuchar and Chesson Hadley, who both shot 70.