Jun 21, 2015 9:27 PM
The Latest: US Open coming down to Spieth-Grace duel
The Associated Press
UNIVERSITY PLACE, Wash. (AP) The latest from the U.S. Open (all times local):
The U.S. Open is coming down to an entertaining duel between playing partners.
Masters champion Jordan Spieth, trying to become the first player since Tiger Woods in 2002 to sweep the first two majors, and Branden Grace, an affable South African who plays primarily in Europe, were locked at 5 under with four holes remaining at Chambers Bay.
Dustin Johnson had three bogeys in his first four holes of the back nine to fall away, and only Louis Oosthuizen remains on the course with much of a chance to catch the leaders.
Louis Oosthuizen has pieced together one of the best rebounds in U.S. Open history.
The South African shot a disastrous first-round 77, when playing partners Tiger Woods and Rickie Fowler fared even worse, but had back-to-back 66s to get into contention.
It looked as if things were going haywire early Sunday, when Oosthuizen had three straight bogeys. But he answered with birdies on Nos. 12 and 13, holed out from the fairway on No. 15 for another birdie, then added a fourth straight at No. 16.
Dustin Johnson had back-to-back bogeys to start his back nine in the U.S. Open, falling a shot behind co-leaders Jordan Spieth and Branden Grace in the group just ahead of him.
Johnson could soon join them. He nearly drove his tee shot hole-high with a 2-iron that went about 270 yards. Spieth and Grace also birdied the short par-4.
Meanwhile, Charl Schwartzel shot 4-under 66 to finish at 2 under for the championship, a shot back of Adam Scott among those in the clubhouse. Schwartzel was 2 over through four on Sunday but played the final 14 holes in 6-under par.
Adam Scott matched the second-best final round in U.S. Open history on Sunday, a bogey-free 64 that allowed him to claw his way into the fray at rugged Chambers Bay.
The lowest score remains Johnny Miller's memorable 63 at Oakmont in 1973. Peter Jacobson shot 64 at The Country Club in 1988, and Tom Kite and Vijay Singh did it at Southern Hills in 2001.
Jacobsen's round of 64 came on a course that was par 71. Like Chambers Bay, Southern Hills played to par 70.
Scott shot 70-71 over the first two rounds to make the cut, but was 2 over on Saturday as others made their moves. He was never in trouble Sunday, making birdie on his final hole as the 6,000 fans in the grandstand roared.
Rory McIlroy says he would endorse Chambers Bay hosting another U.S. Open.
In about 20 years.
Add him to the list of players who did not exactly champion the 8-year-old course that was supposed to be tailor-made to host the USGA's marquee event. McIlroy struggled on the barren, bumpy greens all week, right up until his final holes on Sunday.
Still, McIlroy feels good about his game heading to the British Open at St. Andrews next month. He says he's "not sure if I've ever hit the ball that well in a major championship."
McIlroy won the U.S. Open in 2011. He finished at even-par this year.
Environmental activists protested oil trains on Sunday in the waters off Chambers Bay. The protest, however, didn't go exactly to plan.
Protesters stretched a banner between two small boats that could be seen clearly by thousands of golf fans watching the U.S. Open. The banner read "Save Our Climate" and was aimed at the oil trains that use the tracks bordering the golf course on the edge of Puget Sound.
Unfortunately for the protesters, the banner was unveiled backward, pointed away from the course, as the leaders in the tournament went by. The banner was quickly rolled up as authorities enforced a 1,000-foot buffer zone between boaters and the golf course.
Rory McIlroy is the leader in the clubhouse at even-par for the championship, but the No. 1 player in the world will no doubt leave Chambers Bay wondering what might have been.
McIlroy had it to 2 under for the championship with five holes to play Sunday, none of them overly difficult. But he missed a perfect approach at the par-3 15th by about 2 feet and wound up making bogey, then made another bogey at the par-4 17th.
He also failed to take advantage of the par-5 finishing hole, settling for par.
Putting was a struggle for McIlroy all week. He shot even-par 70 in the third round and said afterward he thought he could have gone much lower.
Brandt Snedeker has replaced Rory McIlroy as the man on the move at the U.S. Open.
While the world's top-ranked player had two bogeys in a three-hole span late in his round, Snedeker was busy stringing together four straight birdies to finish off his front nine in style.
He had an early bogey but still went out in 3-under 32, leaving him 2 under for the championship and three shots back of leader Dustin Johnson.
McIlroy has struggled on the closing holes at Chambers Bay all week. His hopes of a memorable Sunday comeback were dashed when he missed a pair of short par putts.
Dustin Johnson always has been among the PGA Tour leaders in driving distance. Accuracy has sometimes been another matter.
He has put both together quite nicely in this year's U.S. Open.
While still pounding drives an average of 320 yards at Chambers Bay, Johnson also has been able to keep them out of the long fescue. He said hitting every fairway in regulation during the third round Saturday was the first time he had accomplished the feat in a tournament.
Johnson hit his first four Sunday to run his streak to 18 straight fairways in regulation, and was 1 under for his round. He was 5 under for the championship and alone in first.
Rory McIlroy isn't the only one playing himself into contention at the U.S. Open.
Like McIlroy, Adam Scott shot 3-under 32 on the front nine at Chambers Bay on Sunday. He added a birdie at the par-4 11th to reach 1 under for the championship, four off the lead.
McIlroy missed a short birdie putt on No. 4 and then a short par putt on the following hole, when his approach to the par-3 backed well off the green and he left himself 10 feet for par.
That dropped McIlroy back to 1 under for the tournament.
Jordan Spieth and Branden Grace had bogeys early. Dustin Johnson leads at 5 under.
Rory McIlroy is making a Sunday charge at the U.S. Open.
The world's top-ranked player went out in 3-under 32 at Chambers Bay, and then birdied the par-4 10th and drove the green at the par-4 12th before two putts for another birdie.
That got him to 5 under for the round and 1 under for the championship.
The 2011 champion at Congressional, McIlroy opened with back-to-back rounds of 72 before an even-par 70 on Saturday that could have been much better. McIlroy just missed several putts that could have put him in one of the final groups on Sunday.
Now, he could be able to post a score for all the leaders to see.
The leaders are on the course for the final round of the U.S. Open.
Jason Day and Dustin Johnson followed the pair of Jordan Spieth and Branden Grace off the first hole at Chambers Bay on Sunday. All four began the round 4 under for the championship.
Day shot 2-under 68 in the third round after dealing with a bout of vertigo, moving into contention for his first major. Spieth is chasing his second straight. Johnson is trying prove he can close things out after coming close several times in major championships.
Then there's Grace, the South African who knows how to finish. All six times he's had the lead or share of it on the European Tour, he has put things away.
It wasn't just the bumpy greens of Chambers Bay that upset Billy Horschel.
After finishing his final round at the U.S. Open, Horschel also ripped the USGA and course designer Robert Trent Jones Jr. for the very design of the 8-year-old course.
While acknowledging the dramatic setting on Puget Sound, Horschel says the massive dunes and rugged terrain made it impossible for fans to get close to the action. He says, "It blows my mind that they would build a golf course and not think about the fans."
All told, Horschel spent nearly 15 minutes ripping the USGA and the course.
As for the greens, Horschel said a caddie was asked if there was any grass on the fourth green. The caddie replied: "Yeah, two blades, and they're not even close to each other."
Billy Horschel says he "lost a little bit of respect for the USGA this week" because of the greens at Chambers Bay, which he says are among "the worst I've ever putted on."
The greens at the site of the U.S. Open are supposed to be fine fescue, but poa annua has crept in, resulting in bumpiness that has irked players all week.
After his round, he ripped the USGA, saying: "I'm not going to hold my tongue on this. This is very disappointing to hold a championship-caliber tournament on greens like this."
Oh, by the way, Horschel still shot 3-under 67 in his final round.
The USGA tried to prompt some red numbers in the final round of the U.S. Open by watering the greens at Chambers Bay and setting up a couple of the holes a little bit easier.
So far, a few have been able to take advantage of it.
Morgan Hoffman and Thomas Aiken have already posted rounds of 4-under 66, and amateur Nick Hardy shot 68 on Sunday. But with winds picking up and the sun high in the sky, Hoffman says he is "sure the greens will bake out" with the wind blowing and sun shining.
Co-leader Jordan Spieth has arrived at the practice green. He tees off with Branden Grace in the penultimate group at 2:48 p.m. local time. Dustin Johnson and Jason Day follow them.
Phil Mickelson arrived at the U.S. Open optimistic of his chances of completing the career Grand Slam. He leaves turning his attention to the British Open at St. Andrews.
Mickelson shot 1-under 69 in the opening round, but it was a struggle from there. He fell off the pace with 74 on Friday, and a 7-over 77 on Saturday left him playing early Sunday.
He closed with a 73 to finish at 13 over for the championship.
Mickelson has been the runner-up six times at the U.S. Open. He'll try to win it again next year when the tournament heads to Oakmont Country Club in Pennsylvania.
The USGA decided to make the finishing hole of the U.S. Open a par 5, much to the relief of players in the field who grumbled when it was a long par 4 on Friday.
The hole at Chambers Bay can be played either way, depending on how the USGA decides to set it up. But besides being a monstrous par 4 at 525 yards, that setup creates awkward landing areas that led Jordan Spieth to label it "the dumbest par 4 ever."
The USGA said in a statement that, after seeing the forecast, "the north wind significantly reduces the effective playing width of the left-to-right sloping fairway when the hole is played as a par 4. As such, tee markers have been placed 19 paces forward of the 604 tee sign."
George Coetzee has lost his head at the U.S. Open.
The one on his driver.
The South African was teeing off on the long par-4 11th at Chambers Bay on Sunday when the head of his driver followed his ball right down the fairway. Coetzee was left to look quizzically at the shaft in his hands, wondering just what happened.
His playing partner, Jim Furyk, walked ahead and kindly picked the head off the turf and handed it to Coetzee, who still seemed unsure of how everything had come apart.
Since the club was damaged in the normal course of play, he was allowed to replace it.
Four players are tied for the lead at the U.S. Open, but don't rest on Louis Oosthuizen, who is just showing up at Chambers Bay for his final round.
Oosthuizen shot an opening-round 77 as part of the bumbling group of Tiger Woods (80) and Rickie Fowler (81). But he bounced back with a second-round 66 to make the cut, then had the best third round Saturday with another 66 to reach 1 under for the championship.
The 2010 British Open winner at St. Andrews, which is hosting that championship again next month, Oosthuizen is trying to make a bit of history.
Nobody has shot 77 or worse in the opening round and won since Sam Parks Jr. at Oakmont in 1935. Of course, Parks had to shoot only 11 over to hoist the trophy.
Billy Horschel did more than just talk about his disgust for the U.S. Open greens.
Playing in one of the first groups of the final round, Horschel made birdies on three of his first five holes. But after missing a putt for par on the sixth, Horschel nearly slammed the heel of his putter into the green er, brown putting surface.
He must be good at dealing with his temper, though. While others going out early Sunday were struggling, Horschel bounced back with another birdie at the eighth.
The greens at Chambers Bay have proved troublesome. Just ask every player who offered some type of complaint, or described them as some type of vegetable.
Cheng-Tsung Pan didn't have much of a problem. In his first tournament after turning pro, Pan is the only player in the field not to have a three-putt.
Pan, who just completed his career at Washington, was the runner-up at the NCAA championships and medalist at sectional qualifying. He was 10 over for the tournament through his front nine Sunday, but it certainly wasn't due to his trouble on the greens.
Pan did play Chambers Bay in college. His former coach, Matt Thurmond, is carrying his bag.
Much has been made of the fact that this is the first time the U.S. Open has come to the Pacific Northwest, but it is not the first time for a major championship.
In 1998, the PGA Championship was played at Sahalee just north of Seattle.
The two courses could not be more dissimilar. While Chambers Bay looks more like a British Open track than a U.S. Open, with its treeless topography and sandy dunes, Sahalee represents the quintessential Pacific Northwest: tall pine trees and verdant grass.
The USGA went to Sahalee in 2010 with the U.S. Senior Open.
There is plenty of air traffic surrounding the U.S. Open, and we're not talking about the towering drives that Dustin Johnson has been hitting down the fairways.
Earlier this week, there were about 350 private planes parked at Tacoma Narrows Airport, just across the water. (Almost certainly one less when Tiger Woods missed the cut.)
The crowd of planes meant the Goodyear Blimp had to moor 60 miles away in Chehalis.
Then there are the massive military transport planes that have rumbled over Chambers Bay each day. The 62nd Airlift Wing is based at Joint Base Lewis-Mcchord, 15 miles south of the course.
The race is on to be low amateur at the U.S. Open.
Six of them made the cut this week at Chambers Bay, including Nick Hardy, whose bogey in the final group Friday moved the cut line and allowed 15 others to play the weekend.
Ollie Schniederjans and Jack Maguire were at 4 over for the championship entering the final round. Denny Maguire was one shot back and Beau Hossler two adrift, while Brian Campbell was at 7 over after his 3-under 67 in the opening round. Hardy was at 12 over.
Schniederjans is an interesting case. He could become the first player from Georgia Tech to earn the honor at the U.S. Open since the game's most famous amateur, Bobby Jones.
Matthew Fitzpatrick was the only amateur to make the cut last year at Pinehurst.
Chris Kirk had enough of Chambers Bay on Sunday and still had 17 holes to go.
Playing in the second group off in the final round of the U.S. Open, Kirk was left in fits by the short, par-4 opening hole and its elevated green.
His tee shot found the left rough, and his approach to the green came up short. His next five shots up the slope all rolled right back to his feet. When Kirk finally got onto the green, about 30 feet from the hole, he promptly three-putted for a 10.
Or in golf parlance, a sextuple bogey.
The final round of the U.S. Open is under way at Chambers Bay, where Jordan Spieth could make history by following up his victory at the Masters with another major championship.
The young phenom will have to contend with a host of others if he is to become the first player to win the first two legs of the Grand Slam since Tiger Woods in 2002. Jason Day, Dustin Johnson and Branden Grace are also at 4 under for the championship.
Four others are within striking distance at 1 under.
Then there is the course itself that Spieth must navigate. With its bumpy greens, slick fescue and wild terrain, Chambers Bay has been a stern test all week.
Who will be able to solve it best Sunday?