Aaron Baddeley felt his birdie at the 18th hole was crucial as the Australian goes into today’s final round at the US Open with a two-stroke lead.
Baddeley carded a second consecutive round of 70 at Oakmont to finish on a two-over-par score of 212 after 54 holes, two ahead of Tiger Woods, who recorded his first sub-par round of the tournament in firing a one under par 69 and improve to four over.
“That birdie was great to carry into tomorrow. I hit three nice shots there so it was good,” Baddeley said. “We talked about after bogeying 16 about getting one or two coming in.”
Baddeley was one over par at one point after a birdie at the 13th but he quickly came back to the pack.
Bogeys at 15 and 16 were followed by more trouble at the 17th when his iron off the tee came to rest in the rough on the slope of a bunker.
Playing the ball well above his feet, Baddeley managed to find the green and save par. He then birdied 18 to put what could be a crucial extra stroke between himself and Woods.
The 26-year-old will need all the positive vibes he can get as he will be in the final pairing with the world number one in attempting to claim his first major championship.
Woods will be trying to win his 13th major title but Baddeley will be taking no notice of his playing partner during the final 18 holes.
“I can’t control what Tiger or Jim Furyk or Justin Rose do and they can’t control what I do,” Baddeley added.
“Tiger is the best player in the world but I feel like I’m playing well and my swing is good. I hit a lot of nice shots today and I do feel good with the putter.”
Paul Casey and Justin Rose are still in contention after the duo posted third rounds of 72 and 73 respectively.
The pair ended the day on five over par, three shots behind Baddeley, after the Oakmont course again proved a tough proposition.
Playing with Baddeley, 26-year-old Rose stood four over par on the 18th but finished with a five to fall into a tie for third on 215.
He had earlier slipped to six over but battled back with birdies at the 13th and 14th before settling for a 73 after his stumble at the last.
“I’m in the fortunate position to go out there and just chase at it,” Rose said. “I feel like there are birdies on this course and I’ll be enjoying my chances.”
Casey was as low as one over after a hot start, birdies at the second and fourth seemingly indicating he was on his way to repeating his phenomenal round of 66 on Friday.
It was not to be though as Casey gave two shots back to make the turn in 35 and recorded three bogeys and one birdie coming in.
However, he was still satisfied with his endeavours.
“I am quite happy with my round and have to take the positives out of it,” Casey said. “It is so tough out there now and the greens have changed since Friday. They are crusty and difficult and there is no way of giving the putts out there a go.”
Woods was nothing short of brilliant from tee to green, missing only the 18th green in regulation for his solitary bogey of the day, but he was a little unfortunate with his putter.
“I felt like I hit the ball pretty good today,” Woods said. “I hit a lot of good putts that grazed the edge but I put myself right there in the tournament.”
Stephen Ames is also at five over par on 215 after a 73, while Americans Steve Stricker and Jim Furyk are a shot further back on 216 after rounds of 68 and 70 respectively.
Second-round leader Angel Cabrera finished with a 76 and is also at six over par.