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Woodland retains lead as Scott leads Australians

Woodland reacts to an important chip in par save at the 12th. (Photo: USGA / J.D Cuban)
Adam Scott retained his place as the leading Australian through 54 holes of the US Open at Pebble Beach Golf Links but the 36-hole margin of six shots between he and the leader, Gary Woodland, has now become eight.

 Although his winning chances would appear all but gone (he is in 14th position) Scott still holds hope of a high finish and a possible third top ten in the event.

Scott’s previous best at the US Open was when 4th in 2015 and something very special tomorrow might open to door to an equal effort but if he does it will be his two finishing birdies today he will have to thank.

A holed bunker shot at the 17th and a two putt birdie from the front of the green at the last kept his hopes of a big day tomorrow becoming even better but he will need some of his best golf and help from others if that is to be the case.

Scott played well through his opening ten holes and at that stage was at 5 under for the championship and on track to position himself for a run towards the lead. Then would come three bogeys in his next four holes and at 1 under par at that point he was struggling just to retain his position as the leading Australian.

The two birdies to finish have cleared the way for a big finish tomorrow after a round which included 12 of 14 greens hit and 12 of 18 greens and given a golf course that was growing increasingly difficult, his performance was one of the better from tee to green for the day.

Adam Scott on his way to a round of even par today - photo USGA

While his task of winning appears all but gone Scott has not exactly given up hope although he was frustrated by the stretch of golf he produced early in his back nine.

“It's just a cruel game sometimes because today was by far the most under control. I had the golf swing and the ball,” said Scott.  

“And, you know, unfortunately, 11 was a bad bogey that was soft, and then, you know, because of the soft bogeys the first couple days, you leave yourself in a position where I feel like I need to go forward on 14 and make a birdie, you know, because laying up your chance of making bogey is very small.

“But I needed to get going a bit, and I'm a yard from being in the semi and just chipping it up and having a good look at it and making 5 at the worst. You got to have a run at it. I'm too far back. It wasn't really my day. It wasn't my day with the putter either. I hit some good putts. A lot rolled by the edge. A couple lipped out. Yeah. It was a bit frustrating.

“But the good news is I was swinging it really good. And if I can swing it like that tomorrow and get a bit of momentum going, I feel like there's a good score out there for me, I really do. I think there's something mid to low 60s."

When asked how aggressive he needs to be in tomorrow’s final round if he is to have any chance Scott responded; “I don't think we'll be able to because I have a feeling the greens are going to be the firmest we've seen them tomorrow.

“I'd be shocked if they don't. I think they should firm them up and see who's really got this thing under control. But that will just -- most of the greens, the pins are within a few yards of each other every day. So it's the same kind of strategy.

“But if they can firm them up, then we'll see if I can run the tables. You never know. I'm in that nice position where I'm not even in the discussion. So I go and play the front nine really good with zero cushion, see what happens.

“When it's your time to have that, you know, it's like Johnny Miller shot that 63 to win. I don't think he woke up believing he was just going to roll around in 63, but these things can just happen.

“But, honestly, I don't even know that I'm going to have to shoot 8-under so far to win tomorrow. But 8-under total might win this total. You never know.”

Jason Day and Marc Leishman both improved on their second-round efforts with rounds of 70 and 69 respectively to be at even par and tied for 27th.

Leishman did well to recover from two early bogeys for his two under par round, a back nine of 34 in increasingly difficult conditions keeping his interest alive for tomorrow.

Woodland, though, is the man the whole field is chasing. He leads by one over Justin Rose who edged one closer with his round of 68 and Woodland knows what that might mean tomorrow.

"I mean, it's -- that's good," he responded when asked how this situation ranks in relation to the many moments he has experienced on the golf course.

"Leading after tomorrow would be up there, as well. But I'm in a good spot. Obviously you come here with intentions to play to win and give yourself a chance. And I've done that through 54 holes. We've got to get ready in the morning, have fun, come out with an attitude and see what happens.

"It's nice to be at Pebble Beach. There's a lot of scenic views out there where you can take a step back and put things in perspective real quick. But I'm getting more and more comfortable from the situation just because I've been in the situation a lot. I've had a lot of close calls even this year in tournaments.

"Obviously put myself in position in the PGA last year, at the end of the year. It's one of those where the game is becoming more complete, and with that comes a lot of confidence and adds up to playing well."

Rose is the chaser and he knows how important the birdie at the last was in order to get closer to the leader and to widen the gap between the leading pair and the rest of the field.

“It chipped into the lead a little bit and separates us a little more from the rest of the field," said Rose when asked to describe his effort.

"I'm in a great position going into tomorrow. Had a great day with Gary. He's awesome to play with. For both of us, we are good friends, we have the same stable of management.

"From that point of view, it's going to be a fun day. One back gives me the freedom to feel like I've got everything to gain, nothing to lose. It's always a position that -- it doesn't mean I have to approach the day any differently than if I was one ahead. I'm close enough that I have to build my plan, build my round of golf, be disciplined.

"I'm not chasing, really, I'm so close to Gary that I have to go out and play my game tomorrow. And I think it's going to be dictated by the pin placements and the weather tomorrow as to how aggressive you can be and what it will take to win. I make no predictions tonight on what tomorrow is going to feel like tomorrow."

 

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