By Monday morning, there may be plans for a statue of Matt Fitzpatrick at Brookline. Achieving both the US Amateur Championship and the US Open at the Country Club, which is now within Fitzpatrick’s grasp, would be quite the feat.
Fitzpatrick, who endured a turbulent Sunday at the US PGA Championship last month, is chasing glory in his next big start. The Yorkshireman, whose amateur victory came at this illustrious venue in 2013, will start day four tied for the lead. At four under par, Fitzpatrick has Will Zatoris for company. History favors Fitzpatrick.
To his credit, Fitzpatrick spoke confidently of the impact from nine years ago. “I definitely think it gives me an edge over others, yes,” he said. “I sincerely believe that. It’s a real obviously positive moment in my career. It kind of gave me a boost.
“To come back here and play so well again, it kind of gives me growing confidence lap after lap.”
Jon Rahm had hit the 18th tee at five under par. Bunker trouble – and a double bogey – followed. The defending champion’s 71 over par means he’s one shy of the leading pair.
Zalatoris was even closer than Fitzpatrick to a US PGA victory, having lost in the playoffs at Southern Hills to Justin Thomas. A 67 for Zalatoris was the day three performance. Curiously, the 25-year-old has five top-10 finishes in seven major starts but is yet to win a mainstream tour.
“The US PGA has given me a lot of belief and confidence that I belong in this situation,” Zalatoris said. “There is a difference between thinking it and then actually being in the situation and believing it. So I think that’s probably the biggest change. This US PGA really made me feel like I could be one of the world class players.
Rory McIlroy’s 73 left him with three lead points and therefore still very much in touch. The wild nature of the US Open was underscored by Scottie Scheffler, who drilled for an eagle on the 8, which gave him a two-shot lead at six under. On the 15th tee, the world number 1 was at minus one. Scheffler finished two under after a 71. Adam Hadwin and Keegan Bradley are on the same score.
The frustrations associated with a typically fierce US Open setup were embodied in Thomas’ behavior. The US PGA champion’s ball came to rest a few centimeters from a drain in the middle of the 4th fairway. Thomas would have been awarded free clearance if the drain interfered with his stance or the line of his swing; an arbitrator determined that neither applied.
Thomas made his annoyance abundantly clear, while denigrating how many of his fellow professionals would have behaved if they had been placed in the same film.
“That’s what pisses me off,” Thomas told his caddie, Jim “Bones” Mackay. “So many other people would lie about being able to hit that, but it’s like, ‘I’m not going to hit it.’ This is bullshit, man. Thomas threw away his club for good measure.
After signing for a 72, as he left it at plus three, Thomas explained the situation. “For me it was around a drain and very clearly my stance and my ball were sitting differently than they would be if that drain wasn’t there,” he said. “I called an official to get a ruling on that, and in the spirit of the game, I wasn’t going to fall for it. I felt like I could have very easily told him I was going to do this and get free shipping, but I didn’t.
“It’s unfortunate because it was a good drive and I had a pitching wedge in my hands. I could only hit the ball 100 yards. I mean, it’s very clear that my stance and where my ball was was altered and badly seated because of this drain, but I didn’t get a drop of it. It’s like that. You must be able to hit the drain to get a drop.
In a statement, the United States Golf Association said: “During the discussion, Justin was asked if the drain would interfere with his swing, to which he replied no. Because there was no no interference from the drain, Justin was not relieved Rule 16.1a(1) states that interference from an immovable obstruction exists when the ball touches or is in or on the obstruction, or when the obstruction physically interferes with the player’s area of intended stance or area of intended swing.The Rule goes on to state that if the obstruction is close enough to distract the player but does not otherwise interfere, there is no relief according to Rule.
Thomas won’t feel completely hopeless of winning back-to-back majors. Justin Rose’s run looks almost over after a 74 took him down to plus five. Brooks Koepka’s 75 means he tied Rose’s 54-hole total.