PINEHURST, N.C. (AP) — Graeme McDowell spent as much energy Saturday fighting frustration as he did the demanding conditions at the U.S. Open.
Three strokes back after the first round, the 2010 Open winner had seven bogeys in a 5-over 75 that left him 7 over after 54 holes. It was his second straight day over par, sliding him further down the leaderboard after a promising start at Pinehurst No. 2.
“It’s very, very difficult mentally, to stay in it,” McDowell said. “You start thinking to yourself, ‘I’m not even sure if I want to play tomorrow.’ It’s not really enjoyable. It’s not enjoyable. It’s very difficult. But it’s the U.S. Open.”
McDowell opened with a 68 on Thursday, playing conservatively but putting the ball where he wanted it in a nearly mistake-free performance. But he fell back Friday with a 74, making four bogeys and a double bogey.
Things did not get any better Saturday as the course got harder and faster with unforgiving pin placements.
His sixth hole started a run of four straight bogeys before the turn, with two more coming on the 13th and 16th holes.
“This is a hard golf course for me because it’s so long,” McDowell said. “I don’t get a lot of wedges in my hands, short irons in my hands. That’s the strength of my game. … My iron play hasn’t been bad. I just haven’t given myself enough opportunities.
“It’s the US Open, golf’s toughest test. And they were right today.”
STENSON’S PUSH: Henrik Stenson nearly made it 3 for 3 in finishing below par at Pinehurst No. 2.
The No. 2-ranked Swede had finished at 1-under 69 on each of the first two days. He was ready to do it again before his bogey on the 18th left him at 70 and tied for fourth at 2 under overall, six shots back of Martin Kaymer.
Stenson declined to speak with reporters afterward, saying he was off to the driving range.
Stenson is playing in his eighth U.S. Open, with his best finish being ninth at Bethpage Black in 2009. He will join Erik Compton (3 under) in the next-to-last group for Sunday’s final round.
SAY THAT AGAIN: Martin Kaymer lives in Arizona and speaks beautiful English.
The Rules of Golf can have a language all its own.
The German hit a tee shot on the fourth hole that went into a sandy area that had been washed out by rain earlier in the week. The ball was against a 6-inch high pile of pine straw, and he thought he might get relief.
USGA President Tom O’Toole was the official and tried to explain that he would not get relief, bringing in roving official Jeff Hall for backup.
Kaymer looked perplexed.
“I don’t understand his English,” he said to his caddie, Craig Connelly of Scotland.
All he needed to know is that he would not get relief.
“I didn’t really understand the English that the referee was trying to tell me,” Kaymer said. “So I said to my caddie, ‘You have to take over here,’ because he speaks better English than me — even though he’s Scottish.”
PERRY’S EAGLE: Kenny Perry’s final U.S. Open now includes what he figures is the longest shot of his career.
Perry eagled the par-4 14th with a 220-yard shot out of a bunker. The ball bounced on the green and rolled straight to the pin with enough speed that last he thought it might zip right by the hole.
“Came out like a dream,” he said.
The 53-year-old Perry, who plays on the Champions Tour, is playing in the Open for the first time since 2010. Last year’s U.S. Senior Open winner played Saturday with Billy Horschel — who at 27 is the same age as Perry’s youngest daughter.
“I still hit my drivers as far as Billy hits it, but his irons are different,” Perry said. “They’re coming out higher, softer, more spin. My irons are a lot flatter now with less spin.
“It makes it very difficult to compete in a major championship, but it does just fine on the Champions Tour.”
He was 7 over after a 74.
A LAUGH FROM LEFTY: Phil Mickelson poked a little fun at his run of runner-up finishes at the U.S. Open.
Mickelson has wound up second a record six times for the only major title that has eluded him, including at Pinehurst No. 2 in 1999.
He shot a 2-over 72 on Saturday to slip to 5 over and has yet to break par at Pinehurst No. 2, but he was hoping for a strong finish Sunday. He was 13 strokes behind leader Martin Kaymer and eight strokes back of Rickie Fowler and Erik Compton.
“If I hit it better and make some putts, I think I can shoot 4- or 5-under par, end around even,” Lefty said, pausing before chuckling through the punchline: “Finish second again.”
FITZPATRICK’S PUTTING: The tournament’s only remaining amateur struggled in the third round.
Matthew Fitzpatrick opened with a bogey followed by two double bogeys Saturday, sending him to an 8-over 78 and a 12-over 222 total at Pinehurst No. 2.
The 19-year-old Englishman, set to make his pro debut next week in the Irish Open, pointed to his putting. He had 33 putts in the third round, up from 30 on Thursday and 31 on Friday.
“I didn’t hole any putts of any sort,” he said. “… I thought the course was probably a bit tougher, but at the same time I didn’t feel like I played any worse.”
GOOSEN’S OPEN FUTURE: Retief Goosen earned a 10-year exemption to play in the U.S. Open after winning his second title in 2004.
That comes to an end this year, meaning Goosen is hoping to finish high enough this weekend to secure a spot at Chambers Bay in 2015.
The top 10 and ties earn exemptions into the following year’s Open.
The 45-year-old Goosen, ranked 214th in the world, finished Saturday with his second straight 1-over 71, putting him at 5-over 215.
“I’ve had a good run in the U.S. Open,” he said, “and if I make it into next year, great.”
AP Golf Writer Doug Ferguson and AP Sports Writer Joedy McCreary contributed to this report.
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