BROOKLINE, Mass. – When world number one golfer Scottie Scheffler made the turn in the third round of the US Open on Saturday, he was 6 under and had a 2 stroke lead over Collin Morikawa.
By the time Scheffler reached the tee box on the 14th hole, he was out of his head and had gone 5 shots again.
With swirling winds, rough knee-high, firmer greens and cooler temperatures, the Country Club was showing its teeth, even for the player who had been the best in the world for the past four months.
“For me, those kinds of things are going to happen at the US Open,” Scheffler said. “The golf course is just tough. The conditions are tough. The scores are high. All I was going to do was try to hang on. That was my only focus. Just hang on and stay in position.”
Scheffler managed to do so by birdie on the par-4 17th and hitting a 14½-foot putt for a stoppage par the 18th. He finished the round at 1 of 71. After 54 holes, he is tied for fourth at 2 under, 2 strokes behind co-leaders Will Zatoris and Matt Fitzpatrick.
“I think the US Open is very taxing, mentally and physically,” Scheffler said. “I think that’s all part of what makes this tournament so fun. You’re going to be tested in all kinds of ways, whether it’s physically, mentally, whatever. This golf tournament is going to test you. It’s why am I showing you here.”
Scheffler, who won four times in six starts earlier this season, including his first major championship victory at the Masters in April, was more than tested during a four-hole streak on the back nine.
On the par-3 11th, Scheffler’s tee shot bounced hard off the green and nearly entered a hazard on the right. He failed to get up and down and carded a double bogey 5 to bring it down to 4 under.
Then, on the par-4 12th, Scheffler’s drive was in the middle of the fairway, but his approach shot was very short. He cut his chip shot and threw two putts for a bogey. He made another bogey on the 13th hole after firing his tee shot into the thick rough on the left and had to fold.
On the par-5 14th, Scheffler’s tee shot was buried in the rough right. He sprayed his second right shot and missed a 7-foot putt for par. He went from 6 under to 1 under in the four-hole sequence. It was the first time in his big career that he had four consecutive bogeys or worse, according to ESPN Stats & Information research.
“I kept remembering [that] I’m still in tournament golf,” Scheffler said. “I did the double on 11, and when I came out of that one, I was, like, ‘Man, act like you bogeyed 10 and chick 8. That’s not a big deal.’
“After the bogey on 12, it’s no big deal. I might still have 1 penny left for the round. Then after 13, I kept trying to pretend that what was happening wasn’t happening. Eventually I was able to stabilize the ship.”
This is perhaps Scheffler’s greatest strength. No matter what happens during a ride, he never seems too restless. After hitting his second shot into a bunker on the 18th hole and failing to land a good chip shot, he slammed his corner onto his cleat and then onto the ground. But he was able to pull himself together and make the putt.
When Scheffler was asked what emotions he felt on a day like Saturday, he replied “happy and sad.”
“I just didn’t land a good shot,” Scheffler said. “It’s a shot I practiced on and it’s a shot I worked on. I just didn’t execute. I knew how hard the putt was, and that’s why I I was so frustrated because I had a chance to get it a little close, and I didn’t land a good shot.”
In the end, it didn’t matter. Scheffler made the putt and gave himself a chance to win again on Sunday. He will try to become the eighth player to win the Masters and the US Open in the same season; Jordan Spieth was the last to do so, in 2015.
“Any time you can win a golf tournament, especially a major tournament, that’s really special,” Scheffler said. “For me, I don’t think about what I did a month ago. I don’t think about what I did two months ago. Right now I’m here at the US Open , and I will try to win the golf tournament tomorrow. If I do, it will be really fun. If I don’t, life will go on.