Friday 20 September 2019

Koepka lurks in chasing pack as Rose maintains momentum

Brooks Koepka. Photo: Getty
Brooks Koepka. Photo: Getty

Brian Keogh

Brooks Koepka feels good about his chances of completing a US Open hat-trick after carding second successive 69 to lurk just three shots behind clubhouse leader Justin Rose at Pebble Beach.

The big Floridian took 32 putts but still moved into the top 10 alongside Chez Reavie (70), Chesson Hadley (70) and Matt Kuchar (69) on four-under-par.

"I feel great," Koepka said. "I've got a chance. That's all you can ask for."

Rose's putter was not quite as hot as it was for his opening 65 but he was far from downbeat about having to rely heavily on his short game again.

He still chiselled out workmanlike 70 to lead by two shots from 22-year-old Californian Aaron Wise on seven-under-par despite feeling like he had left "one or two shots out there". Starting at the 10th with Jordan Spieth and Tiger Woods, he got up and down for pars at the 11th and 12th, made a six-footer for birdie at the 15th and then repeated the trick from sand at the 17th for par and again at the 18th for birdie to move three shots clear on eight-under.

He suffered his share of reverses on his back nine, suffering a near 360-degree lip-out for par at the first before following the spectacular 186-yard approach to four feet at the second with a careless pushed iron into the hazard at the fourth.

Open champion Francesco Molinari looked set to challenge Rose for the lead when he got within two strokes of his Ryder Cup team-mate with two holes to play. But the Italian carved his approach to the eighth over the cliff edge and ran up a double-bogey six before signing for a 72 and a two-under total.

Woods also had 32 putts in a 72 to slip seven behind with his hopes of a first bogey-free round in a US Open since 2000 ended by bogeys at his last two holes.

"I'm a little hot right now," an exasperated Woods said afterwards. "But right now I'm still in the ball game."

It was another rollercoaster day for the erratic Spieth, who berated his caddie Michael Greller for misclubbing him twice on the eighth on Thursday and had another incident yesterday when he clipped a rake hidden in deep grass on top of a bunker at the second hole.

"Got a couple of good breaks there, huh?" Spieth remarked to Geller after being forced to hack out en route to a 69 comprising five bogeys and seven birdies.

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