Nobody said a US Open at Winged Foot would be easy, but the Aussie contingent would have loved just a tad more “fair” during round three.
With the remaining quartet all neighbours on the time sheet, it was at the height of winds gusting around 40km/h that they teed off in what proved a rugged third round.
And by the time the wind diminished for the leaders, the damage was well and truly done. Adam Scott remains the top-placed Australian at nine over, but his second consecutive round of 74 was more fight than the grace he customarily provides.
Scott made three birdies – among two bogeys – in his closing five holes, but had been five over for his round before the dam broke.
The world No.12 said after his second round that he’d need to make a solid start in round three, but he took three bogeys in his first five again, bringing to eight his total on that stretch over the three days so far.
Lucas Herbert made a miraculous start with a curling chip-in for birdie from a savage lie alongside the first green.
But the young Victorian gave it back and more in the height of the wind as he, too, carded a 74 to fall to 10 over.
Asked if it would prompt an attacking approach on the final day, Herbert summed up the challenge the famous West Course presents.
“You can’t attack. If you get out of position, (the strategy is to) limit the damage and don’t make double,” he said.
Jason Day actually made some great saving putts, particularly early, but other than the course’s easiest rated hole, the par-5 ninth, he couldn’t find a birdie and meandered backwards through the field with a 76 that left him 12 over.
Fellow Queenslander Cam Smith had a front-row seat to Rory McIlroy’s (68) run up the leaderboard, but couldn’t match the Northern Irishman.
Smith’s papers were marked when he went long and left on the par-3 third hole en route to a double-bogey and he couldn’t recover – or find a birdie – in his flat 78 to be 12 over.
“I didn’t put myself in a position off the tee where I could score very well, so yeah, plenty of missed fairways and then just out of position from the tee,” Smith said.
“It was just hard to kind of get it around with that.”