PINEHURST, N.C. — Occasionally at a US Open, how well a golfer plays and how well a golfer scores don’t go hand-in-hand. Saturday was like that for Fran Quinn.
Instead of making a charge up the leaderboard, like he hoped, Quinn took a step back. Quite a few steps, actually. Two days after shooting the lowest score of his US Open career (a first-round 68, when he was tied for second), Quinn had the highest, a 9-over-par 79 that left him tied for 57th at 11 over.
“I actually didn’t play all that bad. I drove the ball pretty well all day, and I missed every short putt that you could miss,” said Quinn, a 49-year-old who lives in Holden, Mass., and is playing in the Open for the fourth time. “Any time I had a birdie putt to make I missed it, any time I had a short par putt to save par I missed that, so it was kind of frustrating in that respect.”
Scores were higher in the third round than either of the first two days, with Pinehurst No. 2 getting firmer, which is sending balls off fairways and over greens. Pin positions were also difficult, which combined to make the course gobble up even the slightest shot that was either mis-hit or caught the wrong slope.
Quinn’s last two holes are a perfect example.
“It’s a little bit disappointing to finish the way I finished. I hit an absolute perfect 7-iron on 17, and the ball hit just on the top, hung there, and rolled back down into the bunker. It goes a foot forward, and it might go in,” he said. “Then on 18, my ball ended up in one of the little crevices in there, I only had a wedge, and the ball just came out sideways, and I make double.
“It’s just kind of a crappy way to finish, but having said that, we’ll go out there and try to knock it out tomorrow and get it done.”
Making an impression
Unless you possess an unhealthy obsession with the Web.com Tour, you’ve never heard of Nicholas Lindheim. He’s a 29-year-old from Mission Viejo, Calif., who now lives in Satellite Beach, Fla., and before this US Open had never played in a PGA Tour event. He’s only made four career Web.com Tour starts, and made one cut.
Yet here he is, about to play in the final round of the US Open. He zipped around Pinehurst No. 2 as a single Saturday, first off because he made the cut on the number — he was in Friday’s final pairing — and there were an odd number of players who qualified for the final two rounds. Lindheim shot a 2-over 72. Impressive, especially considering that Lindheim didn’t start playing golf until he was 17. He didn’t play in high school, and didn’t go to college.
“I played a lot of baseball, did a lot of skateboarding, was always at the beach, hanging out with friends. Hurt my elbow playing baseball and just kind of got into golf, worked at a country club, made some decent money, continuously played and I got better and better,” said Lindheim, who got into the Open as a sectional qualifier. “Started playing well in Florida playing the mini-tours and really saw myself progress. Took it on to the next stage, went to qualifying school the last three years, got to final [stage] this year and got some status on the Web.com Tour.
“It’s come a lot quicker than I would have ever expected.”
Lindheim’s biggest paycheck on the Web.com Tour has been $4,599. He’ll start the final round in a tie for 42d at 7 over, and stands to make 10 times that if he finishes the tournament near there.
He’s got Cup fever
One benefit to Matthew Fitzpatrick having an early tee time — he went off at 10:17 a.m. — was that he’d be able to watch England play Saturday night in the World Cup against Italy (England lost, 2-1).
“I think that’s what everyone said to me: ‘We’re glad that you’re not leading, Matthew, because we’re not going to miss the England game.’ So yeah, that is my excuse,” Fitzpatrick said.
Sunday will be the last day Fitzpatrick spends as an amateur. He’ll make his professional debut at the Irish Open, a European Tour event that starts Thursday. The winner of last year’s US Amateur at The Country Club, Fitzpatrick is guaranteed to be low amateur here, because he was the only one of the 12 to make the cut. He shot 78 on Saturday, and through three rounds is 12 over.
Retief Goosen, who won the US Open in 2001 and 2004, had one of the day’s better rounds, a 71 that left him tied for 30th. At 5 over Goosen is 13 shots behind leader Martin Kaymer and has no thoughts of winning. But he’d like to accomplish something else this week.
“Get a nice low round in tomorrow and get myself in the top [10 and ties] that qualifies automatically next year, because this year’s my last year of exemption for [winning] the US Open,” said Goosen, referring to the 10-year free pass he received for his 2004 victory. “So a nice round tomorrow, enjoy it. I’ve had a good run in the US Open and if I make it into next year, great.”
Keegan Bradley, positioned nicely in a tie for fifth after 36 holes, struggled to a third-round 76 and dropped to a tie for 23d . . . Kenny Perry, who earned his spot in the field by winning last year’s US Senior Open, had the shot of the day. After pushing his drive right of the 14th fairway and into a bunker, he used a hybrid for his second shot to the 479-yard par-4, and caught it cleanly. The ball landed on the front portion of the green and rolled some 50 feet, right into the hole for an eagle. It was the highlight of Perry’s round; he shot 74 . . . Toru Taniguchi had the high score of the day, an 88 that included four double bogeys and a triple.Michael Whitmer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeWhitmer.