Fowler (67) plays himself into contention

Sergio Garcia, right, and Ricky Fowler walk to the 14th hole during the third round at the U.S. Open at Merion Golf Course, Saturday, June 15, 2013. ( MICHAEL BRYANT / Staff Photographer )
Sergio Garcia, right, and Ricky Fowler walk to the 14th hole during the third round at the U.S. Open at Merion Golf Course, Saturday, June 15, 2013. ( MICHAEL BRYANT / Staff Photographer )
Posted: June 16, 2013

Rickie Fowler is no stranger to Merion, having gone undefeated and leading the United States team to victory on the famed Main Line course in the 2009 Walker Cup.

That experience, Fowler said, paid dividends for him during his 3-under par 67 in Saturday's third round at the U.S. Open.

"It helps a lot, just knowing that I've played well here before," he said, a day after shooting a 76 in Round 2. "I've made putts here. I've made good swings here, and the biggest thing this week has just been staying patient, sitting back, and letting things happen. Finally I was able to do that today."

Fowler's 67 tied for the low round of the tournament, along with Phil Mickelson (Round 1) and Billy Horschel (Round 2).

Fowler started on No. 11 Saturday and shot 3 under on the back nine. He's 3 over and trails leader Phil Mickelson by 4 strokes, a much better position to be in than where he was Saturday morning.

"I swung it well, drove it a little better, and stayed out of the rough as much as possible," he said.

When asked how Merion compares to when he played it in 2009, Fowler alluded to this year's devilish rough as one of the biggest differences.

He was indeed far better in avoiding the tall grass off the tee on Saturday than in his previous two rounds. Fowler hit 11 of 14 fairways in the third round and just 7 of 14 in Round 2. That poor driving in the second round contributed to six bogeys.

Fowler bogeyed the par-4 fifth hole Saturday, but that was his last bogey of the round.

"Finally just kind of pieced everything together," he said. "I played well the first day of scoring. I had a few holes get away from me. [In Round 2] I just had a bad stretch, and [Saturday] I just made a few putts to keep the round going."

The key for Fowler on Sunday will be maintaining low scores on holes three to six, which he called Merion's toughest stretch. Fowler has either bogeyed or doubled each of those holes except No. 4 this week.

Fowler's best finish in four previous starts at the U.S. Open was 41st last season. Barring a major meltdown on Sunday, the 24-year-old is set to improve upon that.

"I obviously know I'm swinging the club well right now. I've been hitting my lines and hitting a lot of solid golf shots," Fowler said. "I feel like if I can get off to a good start [Sunday], get through the first six holes, just stay patient, stay within myself and get off to a good start, I can play well from there on in."


Contact Mike Still at mstill@philly.com.

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