Rory McIlroy gave himself a mountain to climb as Matt Fitzpatrick remained locked in a battle for his first major title in the 122nd US Open at Brookline.
Fitzpatrick shared the lead with American Will Zalatoris heading into the final round and made an impressive start with two birdies and three pars in the opening five holes.
The 27-year-old from Sheffield holed from seven feet on the third and two-putted the short par-four fifth for birdie after driving the green on a hole which cost both McIlroy and defending champion Jon Rahm a shot.
At six under par Fitzpatrick shared the lead with world number one Scottie Scheffler, who had birdied the first after a superb approach from a fairway divot and picked up further shots on the second, fourth and sixth.
McIlroy had also birdied the first but was enduring a rollercoaster round with three birdies, three bogeys and just one par in his first seven holes leaving him five off the lead.
Fitzpatrick was playing in the final group for the second major in succession, having partnered Mito Pereira in last month’s US PGA Championship at Southern Hills.
A closing 73 meant Fitzpatrick missed out on the play-off by two shots, but the Englishman has been buoyed all week by the memories of his US Amateur victory at Brookline in 2013.
“I think up until Southern Hills, I didn’t really appreciate how hard it is actually to win a major,” Fitzpatrick said after his third round of 68.
“I’ve not challenged really up until then. I think, myself included, and people on the outside maybe think it’s easier than it is.
“You just have to look at Tiger (Woods). He knocked off so many in such a quick span. That’s why I think people think, oh, it’s a piece of cake, it’s like a regular Tour event. But it’s not.
“It brings a lot more to the mental aspect of the game than other regular events, and for me I think it’s been a big change from the US PGA to come here to a golf course I know so well, and it’s given me extra confidence.”
All three previous US Opens held at Brookline ended in a play-off and tournament officials had made reference to two of those on the final two holes.
The pin position on the 17th was representative of the one used in the final round in 1913, when local amateur Francis Ouimet made a critical birdie on his way to victory.
And the 18th was in a similar position to that used in the final round in 1988, when Curtis Strange saved par from a greenside bunker to force a play-off against Nick Faldo.
Strange won the 18-hole play-off by four shots and successfully defended his title the following year.
The good, the bad and the ugly had all been on display as the early starters got to grips with more testing conditions for the final round.
The good golf came primarily from Italy’s Guido Migliozzi, who covered the front nine in 31 on his way to a superb 66.
The bad golf was coming from a number of sources, including two-time US Open winner Brooks Koepka, who had made two birdies but also two bogeys and two double bogeys to be out in 39 on his way to a closing 77.
And the ugly was courtesy of American Grayson Murray, who hurled his putter into the fescue grass on the seventh and then snapped a club over his knee following a poor approach to the 10th. Murray eventually signed for an 80.
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