Woodland maintains two-shot lead over Rose as Koepka closes in

Pebble Beach (United States) (AFP) –


Gary Woodland maintained a two-stroke lead over Justin Rose midway through the third round of the US Open Saturday at Pebble Beach with two-time defending champion Brooks Koepka creeping closer.

Woodland, a three-time US PGA Tour winner seeking a first major title, stretched his lead to as many as four after birdies at the fourth and sixth pushed him to 11-under while Rose remained at seven-under after a birdie at the fourth followed by a bogey at the fifth.

But the eighth saw a two-shot swing in Rose's direction as Woodland was unable to get up and down for par from the fringe to fall back to 10-under while Rose moved to eight-under with a birdie.

Meanwhile Koepka, who started the day five off Woodland's lead, opened with five straight pars before back-to-back birdies at six and seven and another at the 10th put him three off the lead.

On another cool, overcast day, Pebble Beach's first seven holes lived up to their billing as the scenic course's best scoring opportunities.

American Matt Kuchar surged with a birdie at the third, an eagle at the sixth and a long birdie bomb at the seventh that moved him to eight-under, but he fell back with a bogey at the eighth, where he was in the rough on both sides of the green, and the ninth.

Kuchar was six-under through 12, as were fellow Americans Chesson Hadley and Chez Reavie.

Four-time major champion Rory McIlroy, who started the day four off the lead on five-under was spinning his wheels. He remained five-under through 12 after an opening bogey and just one birdie -- at the par-five sixth.

Former Masters champion Danny Willett of England showed there were scores to be had early with a four-under 67 that put him in the clubhouse on four-under 209.

"Started quick, which you have to do on this golf course," Willett said. "I think anybody who has shot really good score this week has been two-, three-, four-under par early days, and then you kind of hold on for the middle four or five holes."

Tiger Woods, who needed a big move after starting the day nine adrift, finished where he started after a gritty even par 71 for an even par total of 213.

Woods was going the wrong way early after bogeys at the first and third. His five birdies were more than he made in the first two rounds combined, but were balanced by five bogeys.

"I got off to a crap start," the 15-time major champion said. "Two-under through three, and those are the easier holes.

"I had to try to fight back and claw out a round today, which I was able to do."

Woods said the scenic seaside course was playing faster than it did over the first two days, but that there were still plenty of birdie opportunities.

"I think we did a great job of setting it up so that we can make birdies," he said.

- Mickelson challenge fades -

Phil Mickelson was another player who couldn't capitalize.

Mickelson, who turns 49 on Sunday, saw his hopes of finally capturing the US Open that has long eluded him evaporate with a four-over-par 75.

He bogeyed the par-five 14th and was unable to save par from a bunker at the par-three 17th.

Finally, he drove left into the ocean at the par-five 18th on the way to a triple-bogey eight.

"Certainly I'm disappointed," Mickelson said. "I felt like I played a lot better than I'm scoring. And certainly didn't finish this round very well.

"I'm really happy that I had this chance, this opportunity this week," added Mickelson, who said before the tournament he thought Pebble Beach was one of his last legitimate chances to claim the only major he hasn't won."

"I'll come out tomorrow and play as well as I can. But today was the day I needed to go low."