SAN FRANCISCO - Making the cut in his US Open debut, John Peterson knew Saturday’s third round was going to be special, if for no other reason than being paired with fellow LSU graduate David Toms in the next-to-last group.
With one swing, it became unforgettable.
Peterson aced the 13th hole, using a 7-iron from 182 yards. When the shot disappeared, Peterson threw his club in the air and let loose with a series of chest bumps and high-fives, the way you’d expect a 23-year-old to react at making a hole-in-one. It highlighted a 72, which left him tied for eighth at 3 over par.
“I want to watch the replay. I went nuts, I know that,’’ said Peterson, a three-time All-American who won the NCAA individual title in 2011 and turned pro earlier this year. “It was really, really cool.’’
It’s the first ace for Peterson, but it’s not even the best hole-in-one story in his family. His mother, Jan, doesn’t play golf. But she went once, on her honeymoon. And?
“She hit one shot in her life and it went in,’’ Peterson said. “And then she quit. Smart girl.’’
Rounding into form
Heading into the US Open having missed two straight cuts is never good for the confidence, but Webb Simpson thought he had a good round in him on the Lake Course at the Olympic Club.
He did, shooting a 2-under-par 68 Saturday that felt even better.
“At a US Open, to shoot under par, you have to have things go your way. And that’s what happened today,’’ said Simpson. “I made the par putts and made a couple birdie putts. I feel like I shot 10 under today, and I shot 2.
“Just a good feeling to shoot under par in the US Open.’’
Simpson, who won last year’s Deutsche Bank Championship at TPC Boston, has had a spotty 2012: four top-10 finishes, but then missed cuts at the Players Championship and the Memorial. His best finish in four previous majors is a tie for 14th in his only other US Open, last year. Now he’ll start the final round tied for eighth.
“I’ll come up with a game plan tonight after I see the scores, see what the guys are doing, and if they make a run and I’m five back [he’s four], the game plan might change a little.’’
Mike Davis, executive director of the US Golf Association who is in charge of course setup, loves the flexibility that comes from holes that can be played at multiple yardages and offer different looks.
He gave the field a new one at the par-3 15th hole Saturday, utilizing a women’s tee that put the yardage at 107 yards. Since World War II, only the seventh hole at Pebble Beach has ever played shorter at a US Open; it was 92 yards for a day in 2010, and 106 in 2000.
The front-left pin placement at the 15th still made it difficult for players to get close, and only eight birdies were recorded.
The 15th was followed by a 671-yard brute, the 16th being stretched as far as possible because of a new tee built for the tournament. Only three players made birdie at the 16th, which was the fourth-toughest for the third round, behind Nos. 6, 3, and 1.
The course played 7,048 yards in the third round.
He began the day tied for 58th, but by the time he had finished his round, Casey Wittenberg was tied for 18th. That’s what a 67, which matched Lee Westwood for low round of the day, does for you.
“I drove the ball great. I put it in play and the greens were fairly receptive being early in the morning and I was fortunate enough to wiggle in some putts,’’ said Wittenberg, the 2003 US Amateur runner-up who has spent just one season on the PGA Tour, in 2010.
It’s the second time he’s made the cut in five US Open appearances.
“You always love shooting under par in a US Open,’’ said Wittenberg, who, in fact, had never shot under par in a US Open round. “So it’s something I can build on and hopefully I can play some good golf tomorrow.’’
A missed par putt on his final hole kept Casey Martin from making the cut, but he still felt compelled to come out Saturday to catch a sliver of the third round before he heads back to his day job, as coach of the Oregon Ducks golf team in his native Eugene.
“Recruiting,’’ Martin said.
He watched Tiger Woods, his former Stanford teammate, tee off, taking out a smartphone and filming a video of the opening drive.
Kevin Chappell, who surprisingly tied for low American at last year’s US Open, had a bogey-free round, shooting a 68 to get him 3 over . . . On his 42d birthday, Phil Mickelson shot his second straight 71, leaving him 8 over. He was serenaded at the 18th green by the gallery. “It’s a long, difficult day, even though it’s my birthday,’’ Mickelson said. “And it was very flattering of the fans.’’ . . . Keegan Bradley had 75, dropping to 11 over . . . Spotted outside the clubhouse: Fred Couples chatting with 1955 winner Jack Fleck, at 90 the oldest living US Open champion. Couples was later spotted walking among the large contingent of media members, officials, and volunteers inside the ropes with the Woods-Jim Furyk final twosome . . . Beau Hossler isn’t the only amateur who made the cut, but he’s the one getting all the attention, and for good reason, since he’s tied for eighth at 3 over, four shots back. Patrick Cantlay, the world’s top-ranked amateur, shot 71 and was 9 over. Jordan Spieth, a two-time winner of the US Junior Amateur, was 7 over after a 69.Michael Whitmer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeWhitmer.