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Schauffele slips back with 73 on a difficult day at U.S. Open

Xander Schauffele Xander Schauffele - The Canadian Press

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Xander Schauffele has run into trouble on the weekend at plenty of majors in recent years. It happened again Saturday at the 123rd U.S. Open, thanks to a dismal driver and a series of comic misadventures from the rough and bunkers.

After beginning the tournament with the best round in U.S. Open history, Schauffele will need a spectacular finish Sunday to finally take his name off the list of the world's best players without a major title.

Schauffele shot a 3-over 73 in the third round to slip into a sixth-place tie with Dustin Johnson, sitting five shots off the lead shared by Rickie Fowler and Wyndham Clark.

Schauffele struggled early and late on a sunny day on Los Angeles Country Club's North Course. He made three bogeys on his first five holes and three more on his last six, unable to string together the consistent play with which he matched Fowler's Open-record 62 on Thursday.

“Hit one fairway with my driver, so it was a bit of a grind, to say the least,” Schauffele said. “All things considered, I could have let it get away from me even more. So, I guess it could have been worse, looking on the bright side.”

Schauffele has an Olympic gold medal from Tokyo and seven PGA Tour victories, but the 29-year-old San Diego native has only a slew of near-misses in the biggest tournaments of all. He has 10 top-10 finishes — and six top-five results — in the four majors, but no titles.

After shooting 70 on Friday, he has played just badly enough in the last two rounds at the U.S. Open to put him in position for yet another near-miss. He finished in the top 10 in his first five U.S. Open appearances before finishing 14th last year.

“I need some help at this point now, with such a poor performance today,” Schauffele said. “I saw some guys like shooting 29 on the front, so it’s out there if you’re hitting the ball in the fairway. Just going to have to do something special, and going to need some help from up top probably.”

Schauffele began his round just two shots off the lead in the penultimate pairing with Rory McIlroy. But while McIlroy fought for a 69 that put him one shot back, Schauffele foundered early and couldn't catch up despite three birdies before the turn.

The round started dismally when Schauffele needed three shots to escape a fairway bunker while bogeying the opening hole. His first two tries hit the lip and came back into the trap, with the second obnoxiously landing near his feet.

Schauffele then bogeyed the third hole with a tee shot into the rough and a second shot bounding off the green before a two-putt. He also put his tee shot in the rough and bogeyed the fifth.

His troubles returned on the 13th when he missed the fairway again, leaving him stone-faced as he figured out a save that still landed short of the green and led to a two-putt for a bogey. On the 14th, he missed the fairway with his drive and missed the green with his third shot before a miserable chip that came up short of the green and rolled right back down, leading to another bogey.

His second shot on the 17th went in the greenside bunker, and he missed a 19-foot par putt.

Schauffele has enjoyed plenty of success in his still-young career, but he hasn't seized the moment or caught the breaks necessary for a major breakthrough.

Schauffele was one shot off the lead in the first round of his first major, the 2017 U.S. Open, and eventually finished fifth.

He then shared the lead going into the final round of the 2018 British Open with Jordan Spieth and Kevin Kisner at Carnoustie. He was just one shot behind when he missed the green with his approach shot on the 17th, with the bogey sending him home in a four-way tie for second.

He matched that second-place finish at the 2019 Masters, finishing one shot behind Tiger Woods. He stayed in the hunt throughout the 2019 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach, but finished third.

In the final round of the 2021 Masters, Schauffele got within two shots of leader Hideki Matsuyama with three holes to play, but put his tee shot in the water on the 16th in an eventual triple-bogey, sending him home in a tie for third.

Schauffele was in the hunt throughout the 2021 U.S. Open at his hometown Torrey Pines, but couldn't catch Jon Rahm and tied for seventh.

With his dismal third round and the setting sun both behind him, Schauffele headed immediately for the range in an attempt to get his game back on track.

“I just want to see some drivers fly at the target line,” he said.


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