A scorekeeper watches the action on the sixth green during the third round of the U.S. Open Championship golf tournament in Bethesda, Md., Saturday, June 18, 2011. (AP Photo/Mike Groll)
Rory McIlroy isn't the only golfer having his way with the Blue Course at the U.S. Open. See the 65s from Jason Day and Lee Westwood? And the 66s from Webb Simpson and Fredrik Jacobson? Count 'em: a record-setting 26 rounds under par
“I've been a little disappointed with the golf course the last couple of days. It wasn't as firm and fast as I would like to have seen it,” said defending champion Graeme McDowell, whose red-number contribution was a 69 that put him at even par going into Sunday. “The greens are soaking wet, and so are the fairways. It's target golf. It's not really a U.S. Open.”
The previous for subpar rounds in the third round of a U.S. Open was 24, set at Medinah in 1990. Congressional could produce scores like this back when the Kemper was played here and no one would blink, but it's now supposed to be rigged up for the toughest test in golf.
“You can take advantage of it and go for more flags than you can in a U.S. Open,” said Jacobson, who birdied 10 of 15 holes with nary a bogey during a stretch that began late in the second round. “That's why I think we're seeing red numbers. It is what it is. If it rains a bit, you've got to try and make the most out of it.”
The U.S. Golf Association spent years planning for this weekend. All the greens were rebuilt. Tee boxes were moved back so far that they're nearly bisecting other fairways, making it often confusing to figure out which hole is next without the aid of a map or a directional sign. It's a whopping 7,574 yards from start to finish if all the back tees are used.
But last week's stifling temperatures and humidity sent the heat index into triple-digit territory, stunting the growth of the rough, wilting the fairways and greens and putting the USGA behind in its preparations. The rain finally started falling on Thursday after play was under way _ literally a gift from the heavens for anyone who likes their golf in the 60s.
Those not shooting in the red are faulting themselves for leaving strokes on the course. World No. 1 Luke Donald said he “could've shot a couple under quite easily” if he'd only made a few putts.
“The rough isn't quite as gnarly as at some other U.S. Opens,” Donald said after his third-round 74. “It has that different feel. It almost feels like the Firestone or something. It's still tough out there, some tough pins, and you've got to play well to shoot a good score.”
Phil Mickelson was also among those looking for a tougher challenge, even though he appeared to be challenged quite sufficiently in his round of 77.
“It would be really fun to see had we not had the rain,” Mickelson said, “because I think it's such a fair setup that it could accommodate fair conditions that they were anticipating. But, really, the course itself is very fair and leads itself to good scores if you play well and high scores if you don't, which I don't think you could ask for anything more.”
Westwood certainly wasn't pining for a harder course after his three straight birdies on the back nine Saturday. For him, all that red on the leaderboard is a refreshing U.S. Open change.
“Yeah, nice to see. They set the golf course up great,” Westwood said. ``You play well, you shoot good scores. There's no tricks to this one. It's a fair, honest course.”