PINEHURST, N.C. – Low scores were hard to come by in the third round of the U.S. Open, but Rickie Fowler managed to shoot one.
After two straight rounds of even-par 70, Fowler went three shots better Saturday to vault up the leaderboard at Pinehurst No. 2. Fowler’s 67 was one of only two sub-par scores during the third round, and he is the only player in the field with three rounds of par or better.
“Today played significantly harder than the first two days,” said Fowler, who took just 24 putts. “Greens were still receptive but not as receptive as the first two days, and some of the pins were tucked more close to the edges … I’m definitely pleased with how I played today.”
At 3 under, Fowler is tied for second alongside Erik Compton, four shots behind leader Martin Kaymer. Fowler will play alongside Kaymer in Sunday’s final pairing, but faced with a significant deficit, he plans to focus on his own game as he seeks his first major win.
“I look at it as similar to what Bubba (Watson) was doing at the Masters. He was so far out in front that you can’t focus on him,” Fowler said. “I can put myself in contention with the rest of the group, and see what Martin does. If he goes out and posts double digits (under par), it’s going to be impossible for us to catch him. It’s like a second tournament going on.”
Fowler tied for 10th last year at Merion, and once again is in position to contend at the season’s second major. In describing his third-round plan of attack, he sounded more like a veteran than a player still six months from his 26th birthday.
“You definitely have to stay away from making big numbers, and bogeys are going to happen,” said Fowler, who had two of them in his third round. “We have to be patient and play some safe lines at times. There’s only a few times where you can get aggressive and actually try and make birdies here.”
After honoring the late Payne Stewart by wearing knickers during the opening round, Fowler confirmed that there won’t be any surprises with his final-round attire.
“No knickers for tomorrow,” he said. “Just straight up orange.”