Wyndham Clark held a one-stroke lead over Rory McIlroy through nine holes on Sunday as he chased his first major title at the US Open.
Clark, who broke through for his first US PGA Tour title at Quail Hollow just last month, looked calm and confident on the sun-splashed Los Angeles Country Club course, where he opened with a birdie and followed a bogey at the second with birdies at the fourth and sixth.
Up by two, Clark gave a stroke back at the par-five eighth, where he found himself hitting out of waist high clumps of grass left of the green.
His first attempt to hit out barely advanced the ball and his next went through the green.
He limited the damage with a chip to three feet on the way to a bogey that put him at 11-under.
Clark worked out of another jam at the par-three ninth, draining a seven foot putt to salvage par after hitting his tee shot into the rough on the edge of a greenside bunker.
McIlroy, who started the day one stroke behind co-leaders Clark and Rickie Fowler, opened with a birdie, then found himself grinding through eight straight pars.
Fowler was finding the going even tougher. He had three bogeys before his first birdie of the day at the eighth and at eight-under through nine holes was one stroke in front of world number one Scottie Scheffler.
Scheffler struggled to mount a charge. He had six birdies before a bogey at the par-three sixth, then got back to even for the round with his first birdie of the day at No. 8.
Clark, whose gutsy birdie at 18 on Saturday helped him claim a share of the 54-hole lead alongside Fowler, is in new territory, acknowledging that he found it “a little surreal” to be gunning for a first major.
He’s not the only player this week to be learning about LA Country Club’s North Course, which is hosting the US Open for the first time.
Both Fowler and Xander Schauffele fired US Open record 62s on Thursday, and Sunday’s early starters showed again that there were birdies to be had amid the dangers lurking on the course.
England’s Tommy Fleetwood was eight-under for his round after rolling in a 20-foot eagle putt at 14 — his second eagle of the day to go with four birdies.
But he bogeyed the 16th and signed for a seven-under 63 that gave him the clubhouse lead at five-under par 275.
Fleetwood said he’d played so well he found it hard to judge the difficulty of Sunday’s set-up.
“I think there’s two or three pins later on that will cause issue,”he said. “Like 17, I couldn’t have hit two better golf shots and couldn’t hit the green.
“So there is the odd one, but I think overall it’s been gettable. But we’ll see. Coming in late on a Sunday in a major is always difficult.”
© Agence France-Presse