Windy conditions at Erin Hills to test US Open frontrunners

Windy conditions at Erin Hills to test US Open frontrunners
American Brian Harman was the surprise leader after the third round.

The leaders are set to face Erin Hills at its hardest today.

Winds gusting up to 25mph were making scoring conditions difficult and had forced tournament officials to change the pin position on the par-three 13th before play began.

Tommy Fleetwood, who was hoping to follow in the footsteps of 1970 winner Tony Jacklin and 2013 champion Justin Rose, held a share of second place on 11 under par alongside Americans Brooks Koepka and Justin Thomas.

Thomas equalled the lowest score in major championship history with a stunning 63 on Saturday, a nine-under-par round which was also the lowest in relation to par in a US Open, eclipsing the eight-under 63 shot by Johnny Miller to win at Oakmont in 1973.

American Brian Harman, playing in his first major since missing the cut in all four in 2015, was the surprise leader on 12 under, the 30-year-old attempting to become the first left-hander to win the title in a week which saw six-time runner-up Phil Mickelson opt to attend his daughter's high-school graduation rather than compete.

Harman was hoping to become the fourth player in succession to convert a 54-hole lead into victory after Henrik Stenson and Jimmy Walker in the last two majors of 2016 and Sergio Garcia in April's Masters.

And victory for any of the top 16 players on the leaderboard would extend the streak of first-time major winners to seven, a run dating back to Jason Day's win in the 2015 US PGA.

Whoever emerged victorious would definitely have earned it given the conditions which were reminiscent of the final round of the 1992 US Open at Pebble Beach.

Tom Kite carded a closing 72 to win by two shots from Jeff Sluman, with 20 of the 66-man field shooting in the 80s to contribute to a scoring average of 77.2.

"It looks as though the weather conditions are going to be a lot more challenging today at Erin Hills," Kite said.

"I don't see it turning into a situation that gets out of control, like people saw in 1992. Even though it will be difficult, I don't anticipate this being a blood-letting.

Louis Oosthuizen hits from a bunker on the third hole during the fourth round.
Louis Oosthuizen hits from a bunker on the third hole during the fourth round.

"My concentration was so good that day that I caught myself immediately every time I began to think ahead. Their minds are going to wander, to drift off to thinking about what happens if I win the US Open.

"Everybody knows that it's a cliche, but you really do have to stay in the present tense. The guys who do a really good job of that today are going to have a chance to win."

China's Li Haotong demonstrated what could go wrong as he struggled to an 84 which contained two birdies, two double bogeys, a triple bogey and seven bogeys, six of which came in succession from the third.

But two-time major winner Jordan Spieth proved a good score was still possible, the 2015 champion carding five birdies and two bogeys in a 69 to finish one over par overall.

Sergio Garcia hits from the second tee during the fourth round.
Sergio Garcia hits from the second tee during the fourth round.

Spieth had struggled all week with his putting and both of his bogeys came from three-putting, but the former world number one was pleased not to have "thrown in the towel".

"I thought it was a fantastic round of golf, given what we were dealing with to start the day," the 23-year-old said. "This (wind) is light and variable compared to the beginning of the day, but that's what you get for playing a poor first few rounds.

"I struck the ball the same way I have been. I think I hit 17 greens today which was just awesome in these conditions. And then my expectations were lowered on the greens given the conditions. I think that was the difference.

"I was able to get to a few under by just accepting the fact that the putt might miss instead of having to have it be perfect. That's what we've been working on, but maybe a day like today is all it needed to just kind of calm down.

"I still missed a couple of shorter ones, but everybody probably will today. And we moved on and finished strong."

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