Bryson DeChambeau fights hip injury, up 3 shots at U.S. Open

PINEHURST, N.C. -- Standing on the 13th tee box in the third round of the 124th U.S. Open at Pinehurst No. 2 on Saturday, Bryson DeChambeau told his caddie, Gregory Bodine, "I would love to go for this green."

Someone in the gallery shouted, "Yeah, you should!"

DeChambeau thought better of it and told the fans before hitting a long iron, "Don't boo me, I'm sorry."

They were only cheering for DeChambeau, the LIV Golf League captain who has won the hearts of golf fans with his on-course high-fives and YouTube videos. With a potent combination of length off the tee and deft putting on the greens, DeChambeau opened a 4-stroke lead on the back nine before carding a 3-under 67 for a 3-shot advantage heading into Sunday's final round.

As much a showman as a golfer, DeChambeau enjoyed every minute of it.

"It was amazing," he said. "I can't thank them enough. It was a blessing. Man, they riled me up. It just gives me a spike in my adrenaline and allows me to focus more on delivering for the fans and for myself and for my family. It just inspires me."

Matthieu Pavon, who is attempting to become the first golfer from France to win the U.S. Open, is 3 strokes back after posting a 1-under 69. So are Rory McIlroy, who is trying to end a nearly 10-year drought without a major championship victory, and Patrick Cantlay, who is attempting to win his first. They shot 69 and 70 in the third round, respectively, to remain in the hunt.

It is DeChambeau's first 54-hole lead in a major championship. It is only the second time he will play in the final pairing in the final round of a major. In the 2020 U.S. Open, he trailed Matthew Wolff by 2 and carded a 3-under 67 to win his first major championship.

With two holes to play Saturday, it seemed the other contenders might get closer. After DeChambeau sunk a 9-foot birdie putt on No. 14, he made a mess of the 16th and posted his first double bogey of the tournament to drop to 6 under, 2 ahead of Pavon, McIlroy and Cantlay.

Undeterred, DeChambeau hit his tee shot on the par-3 17th to 11½ feet and made another birdie to move back to 3 in front. It was his 23rd one-putt of the tournament. He made an easy par on the 18th.

That wasn't the only drama. On the ninth hole, DeChambeau asked a USGA official to send for his physical therapist. He was dealing with tightness in his right hip; he lay on the ground in the woods and was stretched before hitting his tee shot on No. 11.

"It was tougher to get through on a couple shots," DeChambeau said. "It's OK. I've had it for a long time now. It's just something that popped up. I've just been pushing myself a little bit, pushing the horse a bit. Consequently, that's going to happen. But I've got a great team around me to help fix some stuff up."

When DeChambeau captured his first major championship victory in the 2020 U.S. Open at Winged Foot Golf Club in New York, he swung his driver as hard and fast as he could -- tight fairways be damned. DeChambeau's strategy seemed foolhardy to others, but after 72 holes, he was the only golfer in red numbers and ran away with a 6-shot victory over Wolff.

Much has changed for DeChambeau in the nearly four years since. He is now a highly paid captain in the LIV Golf League and has tinkered with his body as much as his clubs, going from bigger and stronger to leaner.

DeChambeau's biggest transformation might have come between his ears. When he arrived at Pinehurst No. 2 this week, he vowed to play "boring golf" in his quest for a second major championship, knowing the vast native areas and diabolical green complexes on architect Donald Ross' masterpiece in the North Carolina sandhills wouldn't afford him the chance to grip it and rip it.

That's what DeChambeau did over the first 54 holes. He hit 12 of 14 fairways en route to a 3-under 67 in the first round. He was more erratic off the tee in the second round but needed only 27 putts for a 1-under 69. On Saturday, he gained more than 3 strokes on the field in putting.

DeChambeau will carry that same game plan into the final round.

"Just going to say it, tomorrow it's the same quote I've said all week: trying to have boring golf," DeChambeau said. "Middle of the greens never moves, so I am going to try and hit a lot of the greens, give myself some good looks on some holes and two-putt a lot."

McIlroy will enter the final round of the U.S. Open inside the top 10 for the sixth year in a row, which is the longest streak since Ben Hogan did it 12 straight times, from 1940 to 1956, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

McIlroy was only 1 stroke behind DeChambeau after making a 9½-foot birdie putt on No. 12. But after making another birdie on the 14th, he carded bogeys on the two par-3s, Nos. 15 and 17, after hitting his tee shots into greenside bunkers.

"The last few holes are playing very, very difficult," McIlroy said. "Even 17, it's downwind, but with that pin cut at the front, it's hard to get that ball close, and even on 18 where that hole location is. No matter what happens, I feel like 2 shots, 3 shots, 4 shots, I've got a great chance going into tomorrow."

Sweden's Ludvig Aberg, who started the third round with a 1-shot lead, posted a 3-over 73 and is tied for fifth with Hideki Matsuyama at 2 under. Aberg, who had been methodical in hitting fairways and greens in the first two rounds, was undone by a triple-bogey 7 on the par-4 13th.

Aberg, a former Texas Tech star, is seeking to be the first player to win the U.S. Open in his debut since Francis Ouimet in 1913.

Tony Finau also carded a triple-bogey 7 on No. 13. He finished 2-over 72 and is tied with England's Tyrrell Hatton for seventh at 1 under.

Only eight players were under par after 54 holes, as Pinehurst No. 2 continued to brown and firm up in scorching heat.

World No. 1 Scottie Scheffler, who was 5 over after 36 holes and made the cut on the number, struggled for the third straight round and posted a 1-over 71. He is tied for 42nd at 6 over.

Scheffler, who had won in five of his past eight starts, has never had four straight rounds over par in a tournament as a pro.

"The game of golf is a mental torture chamber at times, especially the U.S. Open," Scheffler said.