ARDMORE, Pa. — Maybe Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy need a little time apart, because being paired hasn’t worked too well at the 113th US Open.
Tied for 13th at the start of the third round, only four shots behind the leaders, both Woods and McIlroy had positioned themselves for a possible spot in contention on Sunday. But that required a low number Saturday, something they weren’t capable of shooting.
Woods opened with a birdie, the lone highlight in a third-round 76 that left him 9 over after 54 holes. Barring a miracle — he’s tied for 31st, 10 shots back — he’ll extend his stretch without a major to more than five years.
“It’s certainly frustrating, because I was feeling like I was playing well this week and just didn’t make the putts I needed to make,” Woods said. “We both struggled today. We both didn’t get ourselves back in the tournament.”
McIlroy wasn’t much better, piling up seven bogeys while shooting a 75. The world’s two best players, according to the rankings, combined to make 14 bogeys and just two birdies. Not the recipe for climbing up the leaderboard.
Sisk misses cut
Geoffrey Sisk allowed himself to enjoy the accolades that came with qualifying for the US Open the first time, maybe the second. But this week marked the seventh time Sisk had qualified, and his rounds of 78-75 left the 48-year-old 13 over par and well above the cut line, frustrated and disappointed as he headed home to Marshfield.
“I was really hoping that this was going to be something that would propel me into the future of playing some good golf,” Sisk said Saturday morning, after completing the final nine holes of his second round. “Maybe if I had played well, people maybe would have noticed, and maybe if I did write for an exemption maybe I would get an opportunity.”
Sisk was pleased with how his nerves held up, and that no shot at Merion struck even the slightest bit of fear in him. He knew the shots that were required, and felt confident that he could pull them off. But as Sisk knows from seven trips now, nothing at the US Open comes easy.
“Playing in the US Open obviously has a prestige associated with it. It’s nice to be here for your first time, but this is my seventh, I needed to get something done. Performing well is what it’s all about,” Sisk said. “I’ve had some nice texts from friends saying congrats, you got there. Well, just getting there is not the answer, it’s performing, plain and simple. I don’t want to hear congrats on getting there; congrats come after you play well and make the cut and do something.
“It was nice to make a couple birdies coming in. I just didn’t drive it as well as I would have liked, and driving is my strength. I don’t know what the answer is. But I’ll find it.”
Maybe Ben Hogan knew what he was talking about. When Hogan won the 1950 US Open at Merion, he did so without carrying a 7-iron in his bag. When asked why, Hogan famously replied, “Because there are no 7-iron shots at Merion.”
Sixty-three years ago, when the game was played with much different equipment, Merion measured 6,694 yards for the 1950 US Open. This year, at 6,996 yards, it still doesn’t require any 7-iron shots, according to Ian Poulter.
Before his third round, Poulter posted two messages on Twitter answering a question about the clubs in his bag.
“The clubs in the bag are working very well this week. I’m not playing with a 7 iron this week, I’ve swapped it out for an extra wedge,” Poulter tweeted. “No 7 iron because I’ve only needed a 7 iron yardage once in 36 holes so hit a soft cut 6. The extra wedge much more helpful.”
There are a handful of beautiful homes on Golf House Road, which hugs the left side of the 14th and 15th fairways. So close on No. 15, in fact, that the out of bounds markers (a series of cut-down tree stumps) are no more than 3 feet left of the fairway in most spots.
Don’t expect Sergio Garcia to show any interest in those homes should any come up for sale, because the Spaniard can’t have nice thoughts about that part of the property. He was knocked down and counted out on No. 15 in the third round, pumping three balls out of bounds left and making a 10. In the first round, he made a quadruple-bogey 8 at the 15th.
Not an easy green
Merion, as you might expect, has some of the smoothest, prettiest greens you’ll ever see. But that didn’t stop Bubba Watson from choosing to play a wedge with his ball in the middle of the putting surface at the 15th hole.
“Somehow my ball stopped there in the middle of the green and shouldn’t have, there’s no way to stop it,” said Watson, who used a 64-degree wedge. “Cost me a bogey.”
Big shot for Els
It took two big shots because the hole measured 604 yards for the third round, but Ernie Els reached the par-4 fourth hole in two, setting up a two-putt birdie. Els shot 73 and is 6 over . . . Garcia’s wasn’t the only 10 of the day. Kyle Stanley, who whiffed on Friday, needed 10 blows at the 14th on Saturday . . . Like Sisk, none of the other 19 players who advanced to Merion through both local and sectional qualifying made the cut. It’s the first time since at least 1997 (when the USGA started keeping track) that no local/sectional qualifier made the cut . . . Among the 73 players to make the cut were four amateurs, the most since four advanced in 2004. The last time more than four made it? Also at Merion, in 1971, when five advanced, including Jim Simons, who tied for fifth . . . Course yardage for the third round was 6,933, highlighted by a pair of extremely short holes. The par-4 10th was set at 280 yards in an attempt to entice players to drive the green; the 13th became the second-shortest par-3 at a US Open in the modern era, at just 98 yards. The par-4 18th played its longest, at 530 yards.