PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – Moving day at the U.S. Open on Saturday went like this: Get your birdies and eagles early and keep the bogeys and bigger numbers to a minimum as Pebble Beach got more difficult.
A few of those who finished the third round in the early afternoon were successful matching the USGA’s challenge.
Plenty others were not.
Davis Love IIITom Watson were among the few to take advantage early in the day before winds started to kick up. Love went out in 30, including a birdie-birdie-eagle stretch on Nos. 2, 3 and 4, and another at nine. He made a pair of bogeys and many scrambling pars coming in to get back into contention at 4 over for the tournament.
Love would be even closer if not for a triple-bogey 8 he took on the 18th hole in the second round.
“You’ve got to get as many as you can before you get to (number) eight and then hang on,” Love said. “The secret is not hanging on, it’s just playing the back nine.”
Watson sneaked in on the cut line, then made the special exemption the USGA granted the 1982 Open champ at Pebble Beach appear a great idea. The 60-year-old Watson was 3 under on his round after a birdie at the 12th, but gave back a pair of shots coming in and finished with a 1-under 70.
Brandt Snedeker also finished early and shot 69, the second best round of the early finishers. Snedeker is at 5 over.
“The greens are going to be tougher. The backs of those turtles get higher and higher,” Watson said. “And the winds will come up and it will dry out the lower parts of these greens, and the higher parts will rise up and you’ll have – it will get more bumpy. It’s always been the case here.”
The way the USGA setup Pebble Beach for the third round, players were given the chance to make up shots early, then challenged to hold on to their scores as the round progressed.
Tees were moved forward on No. 3, giving players the chance to cut the dogleg and leave a wedge into the green. The fourth hole was shortened to 284 yards, meaning long hitters like Dustin Johnson could use a long iron to reach the par 4 from the tee.
But no matter how many birdies players were able to drop on the opening holes, the challenging stretch of par 4s along the Pacific Ocean and a brutal back nine awaited.
Just ask David Duval.
Duval tore up the front nine, going out in 31 with birdies at Nos. 1 and 4, and an eagle at the sixth that dropped him to 2 over. He came home in 43 with five bogeys and a double bogey on the 15th when his flop shot out of deep rough flopped right into the greenside bunker a few yards in front of him.
“You do the best you can on each and go from there,” Duval said.
Henrik Stenson was in the same position as Duval, making two birdies and an eagle on the front to get to 2 over. He finished with two bogeys and double bogeys on Nos. 14 and 18. After his 7 on the 18th, Stenson tried throwing his ball into Stillwater Cove, only to not throw it hard enough to reach the water and see it bounce back onto the course.
“You have to hang in there, keep your patience and keep your mistakes to a minimum,” Stenson said.