BROOKLINE — Scottie Scheffler went on a thrilling ride at The Country Club Saturday and fortunately for the world’s top-ranked player, he was able to get back on track after hitting a couple of back-nine potholes.
The Masters champion, buoyed by an eagle that came courtesy of a 157-yard can job on the 560-yard par-5 eighth, sat solo atop the US Open leaderboard at 6-under par.
The first bump came at the 141-yard par-3 11th, the shortest piece of real estate at TCC.
Scheffler airmailed his tee shot over the green and a couple of chips out of the gunch and two putts later he had a double bogey. It was just the third double on 11 the entire tournament and it temporarily threw the normally steady Scheffler off course.
He went on to bogey 12, 13, and 14 before stopping the bleeding with a par on 15.
“After that [double] I didn’t really play that bad. I just made three bogeys in a row. I guess I hit a bad shot. I think the second one on 14 was bad. Other than that, I didn’t do anything that bad,’’ said Scheffler. “It’s just the US Open. Things happen like that, and they happen quickly.
“Fortunately, I was able to kind of right the ship and hang in there and make a birdie on 17 and a good par on 18 to finish off the round.’’
Scheffler ended up with a 1-over-par 71 and stands at 2-under, two shots behind co-leaders Matthew Fitzpatrick and Will Zalatoris and one behind Jon Rahm, heading into Sunday’s final round.
Keegan Bradley and Adam Hadwin also are at 2-under.
Scheffler shared his secret for staying focused during the chaotic stretch where he lost five shots.
“I just kept reminding myself I’m still in the golf tournament. I made the double on 11, and I kind of just — when I walked off that one, I was, like, ‘Dude, just pretend you bogeyed 10 and birdied 8. It’s not a big deal,’ ‘’ he said. “After the bogey on 12, it’s not a big deal. I’m still maybe 1-under for the round. Then after 13, I just kept trying to pretend that what was happening wasn’t happening. Eventually I was able to steady the ship.’’
Scheffler said it’s all part of the territory at the mentally and physically taxing test that is the US Open.
“For me that stuff is going to happen at US Opens,’’ he said. “The golf course is just hard. The conditions are hard. The scores are high. All I was going to do was just try and hang in there. That was my only goal. Just kind of hang and keep myself in position. That’s why I was so excited with the par on 18 because that was a big momentum putt for me.’’
With the winds whipping at wicked paces on Saturday — and more expected Sunday — Scheffler was asked just how much fun he was able to have in these conditions.
“When I’m playing good, it’s a ton of fun. When I’m playing bad, it’s not a lot of fun,’’ he said. " … You’re going to have some good moments. When I was playing great on the front nine, it was awesome, and then it’s tough when things start going the wrong direction, and then it was happy again when I birdied 17 and made a good par on 18. You kind of have to ride the wave out here.’’
Salute to the setup
Justin Thomas fired a 3-over 73 with five bogeys and three birdies but thought from “tee to green I played beautifully.’’ Echoing the thoughts of many players this week, Thomas raved about the setup at TCC. “It’s great. I said to ‘Bones’ [caddie Jim Mackay] walking up 18, ‘This is how a US Open should be. It’s very difficult. Par is a great score on a lot of holes. Bogeys aren’t going to kill you. We don’t do this very often, and I think it’s very, very fitting and totally acceptable to have this kind of test and this difficult setup for a US Open, and it’s strictly because of conditions. The greens are getting firm. It’s windy, and it should be tough.’’ … Roughest start to the day belonged to Xander Schauffle, who came into the day at 1-under but carded five bogeys and a double bogey for a 42 on the front side. The Olympic gold medalist rallied with a 2-under 33 coming in but stands at 4-over … Amateur Travis Vick ran into big trouble on the 560-yard par-5 eighth, carding a 9. He’s at 5-over.
Only nine players seeing red
There were 23 players under par entering round 3. Only nine players will enter the final round in red numbers … There were only two birdies all day at the 364-yard par-4 seventh, with Joo Hyung Kim and defending champion Jon Rahm getting the honors … Among the craziest happenings of the day was Hideki Matsuyami’s chip from the high grass from behind the fifth green that hit the flagstick on the fly and ricocheted sideways into a bunker. He salvaged a bogey … The back right hole location on the 373-yard par-4 17th is reminiscent of where Justin Leonard drilled his memorable putt during the singles matches that clinched the 1999 Ryder Cup for the United States at TCC. Plenty of fans donned those famous US polos from that day and Leonard, now an analyst, even wore one briefly in the TV booth … With a total purse of $17.5 million, the winner of the 122nd US Open will pocket $3.15 million, while the runner up gets $1.89 million, and the bronze medalist will get $1.255 million. For comparison, Curtis Strange’s check for winning the US Open here in 1988 was $180,000 from a total purse of $1 million … Handmade sign on a fence across the street from one TCC gate: “Do your best! (but try to win).’’ That’s just solid advice in any situation … Coming to TCC Sunday? Pack a heavy sweater.