Retief Goosen, the 2001 U.S. Open champ, seizes the lead after a Round 3 that yields just three scores under par.
SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y. - Phil Mickelson's grin had turned to a grimace, Shigeki Maruyama's happy face had gone sad. By the time play concluded Saturday at Shinnecock Hills Golf Club, the only folks smiling were the ones who run the U.S. Open.
They relish days that cause such dismay.
Only three players broke par during the third round of the 104th U.S. Open, with Retief Goosen's 69 giving him a two-stroke advantage over Ernie Els and Mickelson for today's final round.
"I think the course has been smiling the last couple of days, showing its nice teeth," said Corey Pavin, the 1995 U.S. Open champion at Shinnecock. "(Saturday), those teeth turned into fangs."
The USGA loves when par is a good score, and that was certainly the case as the wind picked up and balls sailed all over Long Island.
Even when they seemingly had stopped, nobody was sure. Ask Mickelson, who saw his ball all but come to rest a few inches from the cup at the seventh hole, only to see it trickle 20 feet away. He made double bogey. Maruyama putted for birdie from 15 feet on the hole, only to see his ball run off the green.
Goosen, Els and Tim Clark - all South Africans - were the only players among the top eight who played the back nine under par.
"From one to 10 in difficulty, it's an 11," Els said of the course.
That's what the USGA wants, said Walter Driver, chairman of the championship committee.
"This is a typical day at Shinnecock," he said. "We expect the amount of wind we had late in the afternoon. It was not the prevailing wind, but the golf course otherwise I think is really doing well."
Not everyone agreed.
"The golf course is just silly out there," said Fred Funk, who briefly led on the back nine before playing the last five holes 3 over. "I'm going to have fun because it's nearly laughable right now. It's unbelievable, the condition of these greens. It's like Daytona with a bunch of oil all over it."
Goosen, the 2001 U.S. Open champion, navigated the best of the leaders. His birdies at Nos. 15 and 16 got him to 5-under 205. Els, who served with Goosen in the South African Air Force and has a home two down from Goosen at Lake Nona in Orlando, shot 70 to finish at 207. He was tied with Mickelson (73), who rallied to beat Els at the Masters in April with birdies on five of the last seven holes.
"A 69 around this golf course is probably like shooting 64," Goosen said. "I told myself if I shot level par, I'd be very close to leading."
Funk (72) and Maruyama (74) were tied for fourth, three back. Clark, who had the day's best score (4-under 66), was tied for sixth with Jeff Maggert at 209.
Those were the only players under par through 54 holes.
Mike Weir (71) was eighth, five back, with Sergio Garcia (71) and Pavin (73) tied for ninth, six behind.
Mickelson will be trying to become just the sixth player to win the Masters and U.S. Open in the same year. And for much of the day, he appeared headed for the third-round lead. He recovered from double bogey at the seventh by making several solid pars, then birdied the 14th hole to take the lead. But he bogeyed 17 and 18.
At the Masters, Mickelson led going into the final round, fell behind, then rallied to win.
"The difference here is we won't have any type of finish like we had at Augusta," Mickelson said. "We won't have anybody coming from behind and shooting 67 like Ernie did. Or shooting 31 on the back nine like myself and a few others. We won't have that here. What we will have is guys outlasting each other. Who can make the most pars before somebody bogeys. That's a fun way to play, too."
That seems fine with Goosen, whose last victory came in November at the Chrysler Championship in Palm Harbor. Ranked ninth in the world, Goosen's three victories on the PGA Tour have all come after holding the 54-hole lead. He also has nine victories on the PGA European Tour.
Something that also bodes well for Goosen: Each of the past five Open winners held a share of the lead through three rounds.
Don't expect many smiles, however.
"Major championships are not easy to just have a nice laugh around the golf course," Goosen said. "It's hard work and a lot of grinding. The course really played like a U.S. Open."