ERIN, Wis. (AP) Tommy Fleetwood had no problem picking out his best shot of the day.
Odd as it seems, it was his fifth on No. 18.
The Englishman had a chance for a piece of the third-round lead at the U.S. Open on Saturday as he lined up his third shot on the par-5 final hole – a 50-yard wedge from the bottom of the hill that led to the green. That shot hit halfway up and trickled back down the hill. His next attempt bounded completely over the putting surface.
From that near meltdown, he hit the next wedge to 3 feet and made the putt to save a 6. And instead of leaving Erin Hills fretting about how much better he could’ve done, he was thankful it wasn’t any worse.
The bogey left him with a 4-under 68 for the day and a three-way tie for second place at 11 under – tied with Brooks Koepka and Justin Thomas, and one shot behind Brian Harman.
”Those were tough shots,” Fleetwood said. ”And when you’re staring a 7 or 8 in the face, then you save the 6, it doesn’t feel so bad.”
Up to that point, Fleetwood pretty much couldn’t find trouble if he tried.
The par-4 15th was set up as a drivable hole – downwind and only 288 yards. Fleetwood sprayed his tee shot far left and it bounded around in the fescue. But it came to rest practically teed up on some trampled-down grass near the walkway leading to the 16th tee. Fleetwood climbed the hill, opened up his wedge and flopped it to 6 feet; a potential blowup turned into a birdie that put him at 12 under.
”I got a massive break,” he said. ”Two yards either way, I would have been stuck. I just happened to be in the perfect spot.”
The 26-year-old will play in the second-to-last group Sunday, quite a change for a player who had played in seven previous majors and missed the cut in six.
The closest he’s been to this sort of big-tournament pressure was in March, when he went toe-to-toe with Dustin Johnson at a World Golf Championship in Mexico. Johnson won by one, though maybe Fleetwood’s most memorable moment there, for better or worse, was the embarrassingly bad high-five he shared with his caddie after draining a long birdie putt to pull within one.
All worth the trouble.
That second-place finish earned him $1 million, moved him into the top 50 and secured his spot in both this year’s Masters and U.S. Open. It was one of his four top-10 finishes between the European and PGA Tours this season.
What would winning the U.S. Open do for him?
”Well, it would change my life,” he said.
The bogey save on 18 certainly changed his day.