Rory McIlroy leads chasing pack as Bryson DeChambeau goes three clear at US Open

McIlroy cards one-under 69 in his third round as DeChambeau’s 67 puts him on course for second US Open title

Rory McIlroy looks on while playing the ninth hole during the third round of the US Open at Pinehurst in North Carolina. Photograph: Jared C Tilton/Getty Images

Bryson DeChambeau’s reinvention gathered pace at the 124th US Open, as The Scientist became The Showman in conjuring up a well-crafted third round – even with a late double-bogey – of 67 for a 54-holes total of 203, three shots clear of a chasing trio of Rory McIlroy, Patrick Cantlay and Matthieu Pavon.

Plying his trade primarily on LIV with breakout appearances on the Major stages, which has seen him finish tied-sixth at the Masters and runner-up in the US PGA, DeChambeau – despite requiring some on-course treatment from his physiotherapist on a hip injury mid-round and that late hiccup of a double-bogey on the 16th hole – managed to create daylight to his pursuers.

It left others, among them McIlroy, hanging on but still with hope headed into Sunday’s final round.

On another hot day, with sweltering temperatures into the mid-30s only to cool slightly for those late finishes who completed their rounds to even-lengthening shadows in the setting sun, there was much to captivate from a course that asked tough questions of one and all.

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DeChambeau found most answers, but McIlroy – looking to end his 10-year barren spell since his 2014 US PGA win – also found a way to stay in touch, even with two bogeys in his closing four holes providing late speed bumps.

McIlroy’s 69 for four-under-par 206 left him three shots behind DecChambeau, and also meant he would be paired with his Ryder Cup nemesis Patrick Cantlay for the penultimate pairing of the final day.

“I love the test that Pinehurst is presenting, and you’ve got to focus and concentrate on every single shot out there. It’s what a US Open should be like. It’s obviously great to be in the mix,” said McIlroy, in a familiar position to that of last year’s championship at Los Angeles Country Club where he ultimately finished runner-up to Wyndham Clark.

Bryson DeChambeau reacts after making a birdie on the fifth hole during the third round. Photograph: Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

“I’ve got a great chance,” McIlroy insisted, who could have been closer but for some poor iron approach play which found no fewer than six greenside bunkers from which he managed to save par on only two occasions.

Still, there was a glass half-full attitude from McIlroy as he looked forward to being in the mix yet again on the final day of a Major.

“I think I’m embracing the questions that the golf course asks of you,” said McIlroy. “I think there’s holes where you have to be aggressive. There’s holes where you have to be conservative. There’s hole locations that you can take on and hit wedges close to. There’s hole locations you’ve got to stay away from.”

“It tests your chipping. It tests your putting. It obviously tests your mental fortitude more than any other golf tournament ... it’s a style of golf that I’ve started to try and embrace over these last few years, and it’s the reason that my performances at the US Open have been much improved over the last half a decade.”

On a day where the course bit often and hard, with Sweden’s Ludvig Åberg among its victims – running up a triple-bogey seven on the 13th – in falling to a third-round 73 to finish on 208, alongside Hideki Matsuyama in tied-fifth, DeChambeau frequently managed to find a way to get the job done.

The exception for DeChambeau – the 2020 winner at Winged Foot – was that double-bogey on the 16th just after he’d moved into a four-stroke lead. But he did rebound with a birdie on the par-three 17th where he fired straight to the flag and rolled in an eight-footer for birdie.

DeChambeau has revelled in the acclaim afforded him from the galleries, finding his mojo at the Majors. After near misses in Augusta and Valhalla, he has it in his own hands to make Pinehurst his. But McIlroy & Co. will make it a difficult assignment. Three shots on a course playing hard and fast and with the propensity to bite provides a comfort blanket, a cushion, but no guarantees.

Philip Reid

Philip Reid

Philip Reid is Golf Correspondent of The Irish Times