Justin Thomas moves in wrong direction at US Open

Sports

After watching his 7-foot par putt skim past the edge of the cup on No. 16, Justin Thomas doubled over in frustration and then said to his ball, as if it could answer, ”Why?”

It was moving day at the U.S. Open on Saturday, and Thomas was moving in the wrong direction.

Top-ranked No. 1 Dustin Johnson (72), Patrick Reed (77), Jon Rahm (76) and Jason Kokrak (77) also might have seen their major championship hopes disappear into the thick rough at Winged Foot on Saturday. In a round with just seven players breaking par, Matthew Wolff shot 65 to move into the lead and Bryson DeChambeau had an even par 70 to join him in the final group, just two strokes back.

Lurking behind are Louis Oosthuizen, who shot 68 and was in third place at 1 under. Rory McIlroy (plus-1 for the tournament) and Zach Johnson (plus-2) also shot 68 to make their moves on Saturday; Alex Noren’s 67 put him at plus-3, tied for 11th.

”Any under-par round at a U.S. Open, you’ll take,” Oosthuizen said. ”I think everyone out there now, especially on this golf course, knows you need to be patient. A lot can happen even in the last two, three holes, so try and get yourself in a position with three, four, five holes to go and see what you can do.”

Thomas, the No. 3 player in the world rankings, was on the verge of saving par on No. 16 despite driving into the rough and then knocking his second shot into a bunker guarding the front of the green. Instead, he tapped in for bogey to drop to plus-6 on the day, falling from a tie for third into a tie for 17th.

Johnson started off with three bogeys in the first five holes and was 4 over for the day before birdies on Nos. 16 and 17 left him at plus-5 heading into Sunday’s final round. Rahm, the world’s No. 2 player, started with three straight bogeys and then finished with two in a row; he’s at 7 over, falling from a tie for 12th to a tie for 31st.

Kokrak birdied Nos. 12 and 13 and was just 2 over for the day before taking a 7 on the par-4 15th when his second and third shots both rolled off the front of the green back onto the fairway. He looped a 50-foot bogey putt off the back slope of the green but two-putted from 7 feet.

That may have opened up an opportunity for Oosthuizen or McIlroy, who were moving up the leaderboard.

The 2010 British Open champion and the U.S. Open runner-up at Chambers Bay in 2015, Oosthuizen made four birdies and two bogeys on Saturday to climb from a 12th-place tie into third. He considered himself fortunate to have an afternoon tee time, after the worst of the winds had passed.

”Waking up this morning, watching a bit of golf, you could see it was really cold, windy, and (it) definitely died down for us. The sun came out a little bit,” he said. ”Definitely lucky on the draw today.”

McIlroy shot 67 in the first round and then had a stretch on Friday where he had seven bogeys and a double (along with two birdies) over 12 holes. Starting Saturday at 3 over, seven strokes behind Reed, McIlroy had three birdies and a bogey for a 68, improving 15 spots along the way.

”You’re going to have stretches in U.S. Opens where you’re going to make bogeys and you’re going to make mistakes. But if you can back it up with stretches of golf like I showed there, that’s what you have to do,” he said. ”It’s not going to be all plain sailing in this tournament.”

More AP golf: apnews.com/tag/apf-Golf

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