Strong rally gives Els hope for another win

Fourteen-year-old Andy Zhang missed the cut
Fourteen-year-old Andy Zhang missed the cut (after finishing with a two-round total of 157. HARRY HOW / Getty Images)
Posted: June 17, 2012

SAN FRANCISCO - After his first five holes Saturday, Ernie Els wasn't thinking about winning a third U.S. Open championship nearly as much as he was trying to avoid a third-round embarrassment.

But Els, 42, rallied back from a 3-over start that dropped him to 7-over for the Open. He converted three birdies and sank a dramatic chip-in eagle from nearly 50 yards out at the par-5 17th to find himself right in the hunt for the title.

"I'm in a much better mood now than I was on the sixth tee," said Els, whose 68 left him at 2-over-par 212, three shots off the lead. "To come back and play the last 12 holes in 5-under is quite amazing, and obviously the shot on 17 is what dreams are made of, a shot like that in a U.S. Open."

Els said the course "played probably the fairest of the last couple of days" on Saturday.

As for his eagle, he said he was pin-high chipping to a green that was angling toward him.

"I was in the first cut in the little fringe there, a beautiful lie, and I guess it was almost a 50-yard shot," he said. "So it's one of those one-in-a-thousand shots."

Els, who finished about 90 minutes ahead of the final pair, said he at least wanted to be within four strokes of the lead entering Sunday's final round.

"That's a great chance, I feel," he said. "I think if you get it into the red numbers, I think you'll win this tournament somehow. I know it's saying a lot at 2-over but red numbers will win."

Sturdy 17-year-old

If there was one thing you could say about 17-year-old amateur Beau Hossler in the third round, it's that he just wouldn't go away.

The resolute Hossler, who held the lead briefly during the second round, followed each of his four bogeys with a birdie on the very next hole, carding a 70 for a 54-hole score of 213 that left him in a tie for eighth place.

"To bounce back like that is huge," said Hossler, who is entering his senior year at Santa Margarita (Calif.) High School. "You can easily get on the bogey train out here but making the birdies really salvaged the round."

1-over birthday

Phil Mickelson couldn't find much at Olympic to make his 42d birthday a happier occasion, carding a 1-over 71 for a 54-hole total of 8-over 218.

Mickelson, a five-time Open runner-up, was even-par for the day after a birdie at the 12th but couldn't find another birdie the rest of the way. He bunkered his approach at No. 18 and wrapped up the day with a bogey.

At least he could appreciate the fans singing "Happy Birthday" to him.

"It's a long, difficult day, even though it's my birthday," he said. "And it was very flattering of the fans, thank you."

Peterson's an ace

John Peterson, the 2011 NCAA champion who is in his first year as a professional, recorded a hole-in-one at the 181-yard 13th hole.

Peterson, 23, a former LSU star who was playing in the next-to-last group with David Toms, used a 7-iron for the memorable shot. He reacted joyfully when the ball disappeared into the cup. He exchanged a poorly executed chest bump with his caddie and was high-fived by Toms.

Peterson finished with a 72 for a 213.


Contact Joe Juliano at 215-854-4494 or jjuliano@phillynews.com or follow him on Twitter @joejulesinq. Read his blog, Golf Inq, at www.philly.com/sports/golfinq

 

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