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US Open up for grabs as third round under way

3 min

Erin (United States) (AFP)

The most wide-open US Open in years headed into the third round on Saturday with a cluster of inexperienced major contenders aiming to break free at the top of the leaderboard.

A low-scoring opening two rounds at the Erin Hills Golf Course in rural Wisconsin drew to a close on Friday with England's Paul Casey and Tommy Fleetwood in a tie with Brooks Koepka and Brian Harman on seven under par at the top.

Casey and Harman tee off in the final pairing of the day at 2.29pm (1925 GMT).

The leaderboard logjam extended below the front-runners, with three more players a further shot back on six under and five more players locked at five under.

With the world's top three ranked players -- No.1 Dustin Johnson, No.2 Rory McIlroy and No.3 Jason Day -- all missing the cut, the leaderboard was shorn of star power.

None of the leading pack have won a major before, making it likely that a run of six consecutive victories by first-timers could extend to seven this weekend.

The highest-ranked player left in the field is Japanese star Hideki Matsuyama, the world number four.

Matsuyama is two off the lead on five under after a brilliant seven-under-par 65 on Friday.

The 25-year-old played flawlessly in the second round, relying on pinpoint accuracy from the fairways and a red-hot putter to reel off seven birdies and 11 pars.

"I'm very excited and very happy with the score," Matsuyama said. "There were a couple of loose swings out there, but when you shoot 65, you can take those."

Matsuyama spearheads an Asian challenge which also includes South Korea's Kim Si-Woo, who is also at five under. Chinese prodigy Li Haotong meanwhile is the first golfer from mainland China to ever play in the third round of a major.

Elsewhere Saturday, all eyes will be on two lowly ranked American players who have defied expectations to gain a foothold on the leaderboard.

Qualifier Xander Schauffele, a 23-year-old PGA Tour rookie ranked 352nd in the world, is at five under alongside amateur Cameron Champ.

First-round leader Rickie Fowler meanwhile, widely regarded as one of the most talented players not to have won a major, will look to recover from his disappointing second-round display on Friday.

Fowler, who shot a record-equalling seven-under-par 65 in the first round, looked to be calmly building a decent lead on Friday after two birdies on the front nine took him clear of the field at nine under.

But he stumbled badly with three consecutive bogeys after the turn to retreat into the chasing pack, finishing the day one off the lead on six under.

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