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U.S. Open eagle puts Scheffler back in the hunt

Scottie Scheffler Scottie Scheffler - The Canadian Press

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Scottie Scheffler’s new putter — working quite well. His trusty ol' 7-iron — not bad either.

The world's top-ranked player holed out from 196 yards on No. 17 on Saturday, then made a 22-foot birdie putt with his new flat stick on 18 to put himself squarely in the mix at the U.S. Open.

His eagle-birdie finish supercharged a round that, up to then, was going nowhere. He shot 2-under 68 to finish the third round at 7 under, only three shots behind leaders Rickie Fowler and Wyndham Clark.

“I’m looking up at the board and I’m seven shots back and I’m thinking maybe I can steal one shot coming in,” said Scheffler, who confirmed that he had also switched to his ‘backup’ driver after the face of the original one started acting funny. “But really I’m just trying to hit the fairway there just to give myself some sort of chance.”

He did more than that.

The 2022 Masters champion, who is in search of his second major title, said he was between clubs, choosing between a 6-iron he would fade or a 7-iron he would draw. He chose the 7. It was lucky. Seconds later, Scheffler was chest bumping with caddie Ted Scott who was coming in at full force to celebrate.

“A huge momentum boost,” Scheffler called it.

Nobody has been playing better from tee to green this year than Scheffler, who has two victories and hasn't finished outside the top 12 in any tournament.

All this without putting all that well.

He came to Los Angeles Country Club ranked first in shots gained off the tee box and first on approach shots, but 148th on the greens. He was testing new putters and said he did, in fact, make a change for this week. He moved back to a slightly bigger model that he used to win the U.S. Junior Amateur 10 years ago and make a deep run at the U.S. Amateur shortly after that.

“Just a slightly different look, and I feel like I’m rolling it nice this week,” he said.

He's ranked 27th in strokes gained putting this week — a stat helped by the 22-footer on 18 and a testy 8-footer he sank on No. 6 for one of his two birdies on the front.

But this round didn't really turn electric until the marine layer started moving in, the sun started going down and he pulled the 7-iron from the bag on 17, a 526-yard, par-4 monster that is ranked the toughest on the course this week.

Scheffler has a chance to become the only No. 1 other than Tiger Woods to win the U.S. Open since the ranking began in 1986.

On Sunday, he'll be paired with Rory McIlroy in the group right ahead of the leaders. Fowler's 3-putt on 18 left him in a tie at 10 under with Clark, who made birdie right before Fowler. The sequence trimmed Clark's two-shot deficit to nothing.

Nobody has more momentum than Scheffler, though.

“Going into tomorrow I’m going to be chasing, but it’s not going feel any different,” he said. “If I was in the lead, or I’m four shots behind instead of four shots ahead or whatever it is. Got to go out there and execute and do the best I can.”


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