US Open : PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. — Gary Woodland made pars from all over the Monterey Peninsula on Saturday afternoon, dodging one miscue after another to remain atop the leaderboard at the U.S. Open through 54 holes.
Was that a sign of good karma or potential deal-with-the-devil folly? Woodland shot 69 with just a single bogey at Pebble Beach, and will take a one-shot lead over Justin Rose into the final round.
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The good news for Woodland is that he has been getting better in majors, and learned some valuable lessons playing with Tiger Woods in the final round of the PGA Championship last year at Bellerive in St. Louis. In that one, Woodland posted his first top-10 in one of the four biggest tournaments. He added another last month at Bethpage Black.
Not the weight of playing with the lead in the third round of the U.S. Open. Not the unrelenting pressure applied by many of the game’s best players chasing him, especially playing partner Justin Rose. Not the mixture of elements that dished up a cloudy, cool day at Pebble Beach.
And it certainly helped steady the nerves when he survived a three-hole stretch of adversity by chipping in from 11 yards to save par on the 12th, getting up-and-down for par on the 13th and making a 43-footer for par on the 14th.
Throughout an emotional 4-hour roller coaster, Woodland was as rock-solid as the seaside cliffs protecting Pebble Beach from the sea and will sleep on the lead again in the national championship. Woodland carved out a 2-under-par 69 to stand at 11 under through 54 holes and leads Rose, who birdied the last hole, by one shot.
There was another point to make, too, and Frank Nobilo made it, that the USGA has gotten the course setup right.
“I want to go back 12 months ago. The USGA had a bad day,” Nobilo said. “Complained about the golf course. Players were unanimous in that. It went over the edge. Twelve months later, boy have they learned their lesson. This was tremendous. They knew that it was going to be hot on Monday and Tuesday. They poured water on the golf course. They gave the guys a chance on Thursday and Friday. These conditions here, they expected them, they got them. We had a great test today. More importantly, we’ve got a great leader board.”