PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – Dustin Johnson’s nightmare start to the final round of the U.S. Open turned Sunday into a wild, wide-open affair, with Ernie Els taking a share of the lead and Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Davis Love III not far behind.
Els, seeking his fourth major title and his first since 2002, was tied with Graeme McDowell at 3-under par after Johnson’s early meltdown.
Johnson, who won the last two AT&T National Pro-Ams at Pebble Beach, carried a three-shot lead into the day but made triple-bogey and double-bogey on Nos. 2 and 3 to blow a three-shot lead and fall two behind Els and McDowell.
After hitting his approach shot into an awkward lie in a bunker on No. 2, Johnson had to hit out left-handed. The ball barely squirted out, then Johnson’s fourth shot from the deep grass popped up and moved about two feet. He missed a 3-foot putt for double bogey and wound up with a 7.
On No. 3, Johnson pushed his tee shot far to the left. Unable to find his ball after a five-minute search near the 16th green, he had to head back to the tee box to hit again. Seconds later, course workers found his ball, but it was too late, and Johnson made 6. After driving his tee shot into the ocean on No. 4, Johnson saved bogey, but was 6 over for the day and even par for the tournament.
His disintegration was part of a wild start to the day for the leaders, who are set to reach 18 right around prime time on the East Coast.
Davis Love III attacked the first eight holes, making a birdie and eagle to get to 1-over. That was tied with Woods, who opened with a three-putt bogey, then bogeyed again on the short par-4 fourth and drove his tee shot on the par-5 sixth into the Monterey Peninsula.
Phil Mickelson opened with a birdie and was at even par. Gregory Havret, the 391st-ranked player in the world, was at 1 under – playing well in a twosome with Woods.
The day also yielded the second double-eagle in the history of the U.S. Open, when Shaun Micheel hit a 3-iron from 239 yards into the hole on the par-5 sixth. He joined T.C. Chen in the history books, then promptly went to the 92-yard seventh hole and made double-bogey 5.
The best rounds of the day thus far belong to Ben Curtis and Jim Herman, each of whom went out early and shot 3-under 68.