Dustin Johnson takes 1-shot lead in US Open

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OAKMONT, Pa. (AP) Dustin Johnson took the 36-hole lead in the U.S. Open on Saturday without ever hitting a shot.

Johnson finished his second round the night before at 4-under 136 (67-69) because of the earlier rain delays at Oakmont. No one could catch him when the round was completed Saturday. Andrew Landry, the 28-year-old playing in his first U.S. Open, rallied from a rough stretch for a 71 and was one shot behind.

The third round began Saturday afternoon in threesomes off both tees, though it would not be completed by the end of the day.

Almost as surprising as Johnson in the lead were the number of players headed home.

Rory McIlroy four-putted from 10 feet to end his comeback, and a double bogey on the final hole caused him to miss the cut by two shots. Phil Mickelson went back on his word by hitting driver off the tee on the reachable 17th hole, though it didn’t help. He missed the cut for the second straight time in a major.

Also departing early were Rickie Fowler and Justin Rose, while Henrik Stenson didn’t bother returning to finish his second round.

Johnson now has had at least a share of the lead six times in the last five majors dating to the U.S. Open last year at Chambers Bay. But he still hasn’t been in the lead on the day it mattered – the final round.

Oakmont presents his next big chance.

Of the top 10 players on the leaderboard, 46-year-old Jim Furyk is the only player to have won a major.

The sun began to dry out Oakmont, and with no rain in the forecast, the course reputed to be the toughest in the land was starting to show signs of revenge against the unusual low scoring. There were 33 rounds in the 60s over the opening two rounds, compared with just eight for the entire tournament the last time it was at Oakmont.

Gregory Bourdy of France caught Johnson, and briefly passed him, it what was shaping up as the round of the week. Bourdy was 6 under with three holes to play, needing only a birdie to become only the fifth player with a 63 in the U.S. Open.

But he made bogey on the par-3 16th, and his approach to the 18th came up short and rolled down the false front back into the fairway and into a divot and it took two chips to reach the green. He finished with a double bogey for a 67 and was two shots behind.

Shane Lowry of Ireland had to assess himself a one-shot penalty on the 16th green when his ball moved, but he gathered himself to make an 8-foot bogey putt that allowed him to keep his wits, and he played bogey-free from there for a 70.

Bourdy, Lowry, Sergio Garcia and Scott Piercy were at 138. Garcia and Piercy finished their rounds Friday night.

Furyk is playing his final major in his home state, and while his game has struggled as he comes back from wrist surgery that kept him out nearly eight months, he still managed to complete two rounds under par. Furyk was at 1-under 139 with Daniel Summerhays, Andy Sullivan and Lee Westwood.

McIlroy opened with a 77 and came charging off the opening tee. He made four birdies in eight holes until it all fell apart on the par-4 second hole when he took four putts from 10 feet, the final three putts from about 3 feet. Needing a par on the ninth hole, he drove into a bunker and took two shots to get out.

Defending champion Jordan Spieth was getting close to the cut line until he birdied the 16th to stop a slow leak of bogeys. He had another 72 and was eight shots behind. Jason Day, the world’s No. 1 player, finished off a 69 that allowed him to make the cut with one shot to spare.

Everyone was chasing Johnson, who has been immaculate from tee-to-green through the opening two rounds. He has had four good chances in the majors, including last year at Chambers Bay when he had a 12-foot eagle putt on the final hole to win and three-putted to finish one shot behind Spieth.

In his favor is Oakmont. While the course is renowned for having the most impressive list of major champions, six of the eight U.S. Open champions at Oakmont had never won a major. That list includes Jack Nicklaus, Johnny Miller and Ernie Els.

Jordan Spieth silences his doubters at The Open – including himself

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SOUTHPORT, England – It wasn’t Jean van de Velde standing in the burn at Carnoustie, but it was no less outrageous – Jordan Spieth perched atop a dune glaring into a cold rain.

This is where major championships go to die.

Although Spieth was trying as best he could to see a line to the 13th green, and minimize the damage of a drive that ended up closer to the practice tee than it did the fairway, he may as well have been watching the claret jug slipping away into the gloom.

Van de Velde went on to lose that 2006 Open in spectacular fashion, whereas Spieth’s finish was even more remarkable and completed a wire-to-wire victory that was far more eventful than anyone could have imagined just 24 hours earlier.

“Give me a round number,” Spieth shouted to his caddie Michael Greller from atop the hill adjacent to the 13th fairway. Two holes later, he was once again barking at his trusty bagman, “Go get that,” he defiantly yelled after his 70-footer for eagle trundled into the hole, the emotional extremes telling you everything you needed to know about the 146th Open.

History will recount that it was that eagle, or maybe the birdie putt at the 16th hole or the tee shot that never left the flag at No. 14 for a bounce-back birdie, that won Spieth his third major; but that ignores the unsightly significance of his bogey on the 13th hole.

In his prime, Stewart Cink once described Tiger Woods’ Sunday style with a lead as a prevent defense, a give-them-nothing-but-take-everything sort of deal.

Outwardly, Spieth may not have the same 1,000-yard stare, but the internal burn to chip away at the competition is no less intense. It was the plan when he began the final day at Royal Birkdale – kill ’em with pars.

But this wasn’t like that, at all. This was more heavy lifting than a heavyweight bout, with a gritty texture befitting this Liverpool suburb.

That fairways-and-greens blueprint didn’t survive the first hole, which Spieth bogeyed. He chopped up the third and the fourth to drop into a tie for the lead with Matt Kuchar, and when he added another at the ninth – he’d penciled in just four bogeys total through his first 54 holes – the free-fall was in full flight.

Things move at 100 rpms on a Sunday with a major title onthe  line, and when Spieth’s drive sailed some 100 yards right of the short stuff at No. 13 the wheels were visibly spinning.

Over the course of 20 surreal minutes Spieth consulted with one rules official, then another. He herded the massive crowds this way and that, and paced around like a madman before finally coaxing a 3-iron short of the green and getting up and down for an all-world bogey.

“From there he did what he’s always done, he just grinds,” Greller said.

This wasn’t the 2016 Masters, when he squandered a five-stroke lead with nine holes to play, or even the ’15 Open when he finished a shot outside a playoff following a bogey at the 71st hole. This was much-needed proof, to himself if not the entire world, that he could be the closer he’s always aspired to be.

Spieth joked that he would have gladly traded his lively day for a more mundane, 17 pars and a birdie 69, but then that wouldn’t have had the same significance. Spieth needed this victory, warts and all.

Always an active mind, the doubts arrived early on Sunday for Spieth. He’d just blown a three-stroke lead before the turn and the internal dialogue was hard and harsh.

“I thought before the round, I thought I have a reputation as being able to close, but I was hesitant in saying ‘majors,’ to myself,” Spieth conceded. “During the round today I definitely thought any kind of fear or advantage that you can have in this moment over other individuals, not just Matt Kuchar today, but other people that are watching – that’s being taken away by the way that I’m playing right now.”

Spieth, who turns 24 on Thursday, now has the chance to become the youngest player to complete the career Grand Slam at next month’s PGA Championship, the kind of lofty accomplishment that’s not lost on one of the game’s most astute students. But on Sunday as the rain pelted Royal Birkdale and his gaze drifted toward the claret jug, that wasn’t the history he was interested in.

He’d said on numerous occasions that he’d moved on since that ’16 collapse at Augusta National, but players say a lot of things. It’s a competitive firewall to keep talents like Spieth from venturing too far down the rabbit hole.

With apologies to the sports psychologists of the world, there’s no room in golf for self-examination when your next round could just as easily be a breakthrough or breakdown, depending on the outcome.

But then Spieth isn’t your normal champion and as things started to unravel early on Day 4 the déjà vu must have been deafening.

“He’s heard a lot since that ’16 Masters and I’m sure somewhere in there some doubts crept in, but he just said I know how to do this,” Greller said.

Most players wouldn’t admit to such doubts, but then Spieth isn’t most players. On Sunday, he conceded he was uncomfortable to start the round and only slightly less uncomfortable after scrambling for bogey at the 13th hole. More so than the elements or a demanding links, it was those emotions and how he dealt with them that was so rewarding. It may have been Kuchar who he beat by three strokes, but it was the scorecard against an assortment of doubts and demons that will resonate long after he leaves England.

“Closing today was extremely important for the way I look at myself,” Spieth said.

On a wild day along the Irish Sea, Spieth proved to everyone, including himself, that he’s a fighter, a closer, a champion.

Jordan Spieth one PGA away from winning career Grand Slam

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If Spieth wins, he’ll become the youngest player to ever capture the slam. Tiger Woods was 24 when he did it at the 2000 Open.

It’s a wonderful opportunity for Spieth, but one that also comes with a heavy burden.

“It’s good and bad, because a lot comes with it. And a lot more attention,” he said. “I wanted to be in this position but then, you know, here and there, it becomes harder when it doesn’t go your way. And you’re harder on yourself because you expect so much.”

Spieth joins Rory McIlroy (Masters) and Phil Mickelson (U.S. Open) as the only active players with three legs of the slam.

While the pressure will mount in the coming weeks, and even more the longer it takes for him to win the PGA, Spieth isn’t going to worry about it at the moment.

“I’m going to thoroughly enjoy this. I look back on ’15 and thought, yeah, I enjoyed it, but I never realized the significance until you kind of hit a low, hit a pitfall, to appreciate the high so much,” he said. “And this is as much of a high as I’ve ever experienced in my golfing life.”