A dramatic end to a dramatic Moving Day. If tomorrow is half as good, we’ll be in for a treat. My guess: tomorrow will be twice as good, so you won’t want to be anywhere else! Hope you’ll join us, and thanks so much for reading this report. Nighty night!
-9: D Johnson
-8: Scheffler, Champ
-7: Morikawa, Casey, Koepka
-6: DeChambeau, Finau, Rose, Berger, Day, Fleetwood
-5: Dahmen, Kim, Wolff, Schauffele, Li
-4: Matsuyama, Wiesberger, Lorenzo-Vera
-3: Cantlay, Poulter, Simpson, Rahm, Reed, Varner III, Frittelli, Griffin, Todd
Fleetwood rolls his birdie putt straight into the cup, no messing. And suddenly the picture looks so much brighter for Southport’s finest! Two birdies in the last three holes, and a non-event of a round has been salvaged. A level-par 70 that keeps him right in the hunt! Hopefully we’ll see much more of him tomorrow, eh?
Li sends a delicious chip down to kick-in distance with soft hands. Given the rocking his mental equilibrium will have taken after that dreadful stroke of luck at 13, losing his ball up a tree, that’s shown real character. He won’t be happy with his 73, of course, but he’s still in with a shout at -5, and may prefer to hunt rather than be hunted tomorrow afternoon.
Li’s second goes just over the back of 18. Only just into the rough. Not far from where Day was, it shouldn’t be a problem to get that up and down for his par. Fleetwood meanwhile finds the centre of the green, onto the top tier where the flag is, and he’ll have a fairly straight 15-foot putt for his birdie.
Day’s just off the back, in fact, on the fringe. He nearly drains a 25-footer for birdie, but he’ll make par and sign for a 70. Level par isn’t exactly what you want on Moving Day, but having been off his game, he’ll take it. He looks cheerful enough. He’s -6. And it’s a par for Berger, whose putter went a little cold today. He’s shot a level-par 70 too, and remains in with a very good shout at -6.
Both of the final groups are now on 18. The penultimate pairing, Day and Berger, both get to the dancefloor in two strokes. Back on the tee, Li and Tommy Fleetwood prepare to drive. Both are at -5, and while we’ve followed Li round, Fleetwood has been practically invisible to the cameras. That’s because he achieved nothing of note, apart from bogeys at 3 and 10, until birdie at 16. But while he’s been out of sight and mind, he’s not out of this tournament, and a birdie at the last would change the look of this round completely. He splits the fairway. Li finds the fringe on the left, a fairly fortunate outcome since he didn’t catch his drive at all, the ball only just getting over the water.
Justin Rose gives himself a straight 15-foot birdie chance on 18, but doesn’t hit it. It’s never going in. That’s a 70, which he’d have probably taken after an awful start that threatened for a little while to totally derail his round. He remains at -6, and a second major is far from a pipe dream. Brooks Koepka is looking for number five, meanwhile, and he wastes no time in rolling home his birdie putt. A 69, and what a magnificent recovery from that 5-5-5 run that looked like scuppering his title defence. He’s -7, and will be featuring in Dustin Johnson’s dreams tonight, you can be sure of that.
From the centre of 18, 170 yards out, Koepka eases his approach to five feet. That is quite magnificent, and if he knocks that in, he’ll give those above him on the leaderboard some serious pause for thought. Even if he doesn’t, he’s shown great moxie to come back from that three-hole slump that cost three shots.
Li’s shortsided himself in the bunker, and does well just to splash out to 15 feet. He can’t make the par putt, and another shot goes. He’s back to -5, and four shots have gone in as many holes. As unfortunate as he was with that disappearing drive on 13, the approach shot here was abysmal. Meanwhile up on 17, Day gingerly shoves his birdie putt wide right, a real opportunity to make more ground on the leaders gone.
Day looks revived by that birdie on 16. He swishes his tee shot at the par-three 17th pin high to 12 feet. He’ll have a good look at another birdie. Meanwhile on 18, Koepka lashes a frustrated drive down the middle. Working out a few things there. And up on the green, Cameron Champ can’t believe his Srixon doesn’t drop, rolled straight at the cup from 20 feet, but somehow screeching to a halt one dimple short. He’s fuming, but once the smoke clears, he’ll be content with a fine 67 that’s put him right in contention for his maiden major. He’s -8.
Li’s nerves get the better of him at 16. From the middle of the fairway, 90 yards out, a sand wedge in hand, he takes an absolute age over his shot. Brooks Koepka would most certainly not approve. He pays for his dilly-dallying. After a very nervous smile to his caddy, and a fair amount of twitching, he pulls his ball into the bunker front left. Oh dear.
Nothing’s happened for Jason Day since birdie at the opening hole. Apart from a couple of bogeys, at 6 and 9, that is. But he’s been grinding it out, and after a long run of pars, he rattles a 30-footer across 16 and into the cup for his second birdie of the day. He’s back to where he started: -6. He throws his arms open, cocks his head back, and shouts YES! before laughing at his struggles. He’s still in fine fettle. Don’t rule the 2015 champ out. His partner Daniel Berger isn’t quite so cheery as his short birdie putt lips out. He remains at -6.
Koepka sends a 9-iron over the flag at 17. He’ll have a straight 20-footer coming back for another birdie. Rose follows him on and will have a look from about 30 feet. Up on 18, Casey makes his par, and that’s a superb save after a poor drive. Pars all the way home, and he’ll be more than happy with his 68. He’ll be tucked just behind the leaders tomorrow at -7.
Koepka makes his birdie putt, and he’s back to -6. A decent response to three consecutive bogeys. Rose tidies up and remains at -6. On 18, Casey can only hack out from the thick rough, but he screws his third to five feet and has a good chance of scrambling his par.
Two putts for Champ. Par. He remains at -8, one off DJ’s lead. Koepka nearly drives 16, then chips up to four feet. Chance for birdie. Rose won’t get one, though; he’s out of position on the right, and hits an overhanging branch with his second. But his third chip is sensational, clipped to a couple of feet. He’ll save his par.
Champ sends his tee shot at 17 over the flag. He’ll have a look at birdie from 20 feet. On 18, Casey sends his drive into thick stuff down the left. Berger has a birdie chance on 15 but he pulls it left and remains at -6.
Koepka’s partner Rose bogeys too, the result of a careless three-putt. He’s back to -6. And the pressure is beginning to tell, as Li, on the edge of the 14th in two, underhits a chip woefully. That leads to another bogey, and he drops to -6, though he’s so unlucky his 25-foot par saver didn’t drop, stopping one dimple away from dropping. It just required one more joule of energy. Maybe a joule he left out on the range during that absurd six-hour practice stint last night?
Koepka very nearly chips in to escape with par, but that’s another shot gone. Three bogeys in a row, and he’s slipped all the way back to -5. He’s occasionally prone to this: his near-collapse at Bethpage Black last year, his dismal start to his final round at Portrush in the Open. Time to regroup. To be fair, he almost always bounces back.
Koepka is getting extremely ragged. He sends his second at 15 over the back, then flubs his chip up. He’s still in the thick stuff, albeit by the fringe now. If he doesn’t pull himself together quickly, he could play himself out of contention this afternoon. Especially as, up on 18, Johnson two-putts for par and signs for an excellent 65. He was back in 31 strokes, such a fine response to that double-bogey at 9. He’s the tournament and clubhouse leader at -9. Last year’s runner-up could be ready to right some wrongs tomorrow!
Dustin sends his second at 18 to the fringe near the back of the green. The pin’s on that top ridge, so he’s in good nick. Li sends his drive at 14 left this time, an over-correction in the wake of the disaster on 13, and nearly finds a penalty area. But it stops short of that bother, and Li laughs wryly.
Dustin has bogeyed the 18th twice this week, but he’s started well here, larruping a monster drive down the middle. Two putts for Li on 13, meanwhile, and it’s a double-bogey six. That doesn’t look great on paper, but what a level-headed response to an awful stroke of luck. To (effectively) par the hole with his second ball ensured he only dropped two strokes and remains very much in the mix. That may stand him in good stead, should he keep it together for the rest of the round. Champ does well, too, to gather himself on 15 and flop to four feet, limiting his own damage to bogey.
-9: D Johnson (17)
-8: Scheffler (F), Champ (15)
-7: Morikawa (F), Casey (15), Rose (14), Li (13)
Champ is clearly rattled, and sends his third, a wedge, over the back of 15 and into thick nonsense. Li finds the middle of 13 with his fourth and should limit the damage to double bogey. Meanwhile it’s all happening, because it’s back-to-back bogeys for Koepka, the latest at 14, and he slips to -6. Suddenly the defending champion is three off
Li, Champ and
Li hits a fine second tee shot; he’ll be hitting his fourth from the fairway. And up on 17, adding to the narrative, Dustin Johnson rakes in a 30-foot birdie putt on 17, and snatches a share of the lead at -9! He’ll almost certainly have that to himself in a few minutes, once Li and Champ are done.
If Li was fortunate on 12, he’s desperately unlucky on 13. It writes itself. His ball sailed into the trees down the right, and nobody saw it drop. He takes three minutes to look for it … but it’s lost. He’s got to go back to the tee and hit three from there. Such a sad moment. Champ, by contrast, has a decent lie to the right of 15 … but he whips a weird one into the sky and the ball only travels 20 yards or so into more rough! Not sure what happened there. He either hit some overhanging branches, or got right under it. The ball did seem to have a puffy lie, so the latter could be more likely. Some major-championship pressure being felt, right here!
Both leaders send their next tee shots wide right, Champ at 15, Li dramatically so at 13. No lucky bounce for Li this time. Goodness knows how Moving Day is going to end, never mind the tournament itself.
Li does even better than make par! He putts down the hill and the right-to-left curler embarks on an unerring journey towards the cup. As it disappears from sight, he raises both arms in mock triumph before covering his mouth and guffawing loudly. Birdie! He knows he really got away with one there … but he took advantage of a couple of huge breaks, and that’s the sort of thing that could convince a man this is his time! Birdie for Champ at 14, mind, so Li doesn’t get the moment to himself.
-9: Champ (14), Li (12)
-8: Scheffler (F), D Johnson (16)
A couple of great bounces for Li on 12! A wild tee shot looks headed for the cart path down the right, but it snags a tree and drops into the semi-rough. His second looks pulled left of the green, but it skips over the bunker and rolls down a hill towards the putting surface. He’s not on, but he’s close to the tucked-away pin, and should save his par from there. Meanwhile Scheffler throws his arms out in agony as he misses a short par putt on the last. He’s still signing for a superb 65, one shy of Fleetwood and Champ’s best-of-week mark. But there goes sole ownership of the lead. Meanwhile dropped strokes for Koepka at 13 (poor chip) and Berger at 12 (poor putt) and here’s how the top of this ever-changing leaderboard looks …
-8: Scheffler (F), D Johnson (15), Champ (13), Li (11)
-7: Morikawa (F), Casey (14), Rose (13), Koepka (13)
-6: DeChambeau (F), Finau (F), Schauffele (14), Berger (12)
DJ curls in a 30-footer on 15, and that’s back-to-back birdies. He rises to the ever-expanding group in second spot … but Paul Casey lets a chance to do the same slip by at 14, leaving a 12-footer on the high side.
-9: Scheffler (17)
-8: D Johnson (15), Champ (13), Koepka (12), Li (11)
Tony Finau is a dimple away from making birdie at the last, but it’s just a par and he signs for a 67. He’s nicely placed at -6, and unlike a few likely to end the day ahead of him, at least has experience of the heat of major-championship Sunday.
Koepka makes birdie at 12. No fuss, no drama. A stroll. On such a tricky hole too, the pin tucked away at the back. He lasered it to 12 feet. He moves up to -8, a shot off Scheffler’s lead. As for the leader himself, he cracks his drive at 18 into the trap to the left of the fairway. That shouldn’t be a problem, many a player has found the green from that spot this week.
Scheffler becomes the first to reach nine under! He clacks a lovely tee shot at 17 to 20 feet, and strokes in the putt. Few mentioned the 24-year-old from Dallas at the start of the week, though there he was in plain sight, having tied for 15th at the WGC St Jude last weekend with four rounds under 70. He’s not under the radar now.
-9: Scheffler (17)
-8: Champ (12), Li (9)
-7: Morikawa (F), D Johnson (14), Casey (12), Koepka (11), Rose (11), Berger (10)
-6: DeChambeau (F), Finau (17), Schauffele (13)
The birdies keep on coming! Another for Scheffler, this time at the short par-four 16th, reward for a 30-foot tramliner. Back-to-back birdies, and he’s got a share of the lead! Then on 14, Dustin Johnson recovers from a slightly wild drive down the right by wedging to eight feet and rolling in the putt. He’s one off! And Champ sails his second to 12 feet at 12, the pin tucked away at the back, setting himself up for birdie and share! This leaderboard is wonderfully absurd.
-8: Scheffler (16), Champ (12), Li (9)
-7: Morikawa (F), D Johnson (14), Casey (12), Koepka (11), Rose (11), Berger (10)
-6: DeChambeau (F), Finau (17), Schauffele (13)
Tony Finau has been quiet for a while, but he’s just drained a 60-foot birdie putt across 17 to move up to -6. Birdie for Scottie Scheffler at 15, and he’s back to -7. Daniel Berger birdies 10 to return to -7. And another birdie for Justin Rose, who curls in a 25-foot left-to-right putt on 11. Perfectly paced, in that it only just dropped, stalling for a nanosecond on the lip before disappearing. What a tease. He’s -7 too, and this is a fantastic comeback by Rose, who was all over the shop at the start of this round.
Champ fumes as he three-putts the 11th to drop out of the lead. Koepka isn’t much happier as he’s limited to par on the easy par-five 10th, out of position from the get-go. But his partner Rose makes his birdie and he’s back to -6. However the real scenes are on the 18th green, the front of which Bryson DeChambeau has only just found. He’s faced with a snaking 100-foot putt up a ridge … and looks around in stunned amazement as it clatters into the hole! Birdie! That’ll make for a sound sleep this evening, and he’s signing for a 66 that brings him right into this tournament at -6!
It’s not quite happened for Jason Day after his fast start with birdie at 1. Bogey at 6, and now an uncertain prod at a six-footer on 9 ships another shot. He turns in 36 and slips to -5. His playing partner Daniel Berger misses a short par putt too, and drops to -6. The minute they vacate the hole, Li whip-cracks a glorious iron straight at the flag from 190 yards. It’s maybe 15 feet from the cup, and on this difficult hole is worthy of the “wow” his caddy greets it with.
Collin Morikawa pars the last, and signs for a wonderful 65. He’s the new clubhouse leader at -7. That’s one off the tournament leader Li Haotong, who has just been joined at -8 by Cameron Champ, making birdie at 10.
-8: Champ (10), Li (8)
-7: Morikawa (F), Casey (11), Koepka (9), Berger (8)
Li pulls his tee shot at 8 into the thick stuff to the left of the green. He whips to eight feet, a decent result from where he found himself. He makes the par putt, although the ball wiped its feet before dropping, but that’s a fine up and down, and he pumps the air with great determination. He remains one in front at -8. Meanwhile up on the par-three 17th, DeChambeau misses left, then hits a hot chip past the cup and off the other side. A bogey that brings him back down to -5.
Xander Schauffele dropped off the radar early today with bogeys at 1 and 3. But he’s since birdied 4, 7, 10 and now 11, rattling in a 30-footer, and suddenly he’s back up to -6. A reminder: six top-ten major finishes for the young Californian out of 11 starts.
Scrub that. Li Haotong creams a 5-wood to the edge of the short par-four 7th. A chip and a putt, and he retakes sole ownership of the lead at -8. He should soon after be joined by Casey, but he manages to three-putt from the fringe at the par-five 10th, having gotten far too excited over an eagle effort. He remains at -7, and that’s a huge opportunity squandered.
“Fucking thing!” Koepka’s drive at 9 finds the second cut down the left. Wayne Riley apologises for “some nasty language” at 12.30am in the morning. We truly are through the looking glass. Meanwhile it’s two birdies in three holes for DeChambeau, at 14 and 16, and he’s been quietly mooching up the leaderboard, joining the crowd at -6. This is preposterous! There are 19 players within two shots of the lead! Who’s going to win this fucking thing, then, eh? (Sorry, it was an open goal.)
Three birdies in a row for the in-form Collin Morikawa! The 23-year-old from Vegas rolls a 15-footer into the cup at the par-three 17th, and he grabs a share. This is going to go to a play-off tomorrow, isn’t it? Yes.
-7: Morikawa (17), Casey (9), Champ (9), Koepka (7), Berger (7), Li (6)
-6: Scheffler (13), Wolff (11), D Johnson (11), Day (7)
Here we go! Collin Morikawa makes back-to-back birdies at 15 and 16, and he’s suddenly -6. Justin Rose rolls in a 30-footer for birdie on 8 and he’s back up to -5. His partner Brooks Koepka shortsides himself at the par-three but whips high into the air and lands softly by the cup to save his shot. He remains at -7.
Tell you what. Birdies are at a premium at the minute. Players are having to battle for their pars. The group of current clubhouse leaders at -3 – Patrick Cantlay, Ian Poulter, Webb Simpson, Jon Rahm – could be forgiven for thinking they’ll be in a very decent position when it all comes down this evening. Can anyone out on the course make a decisive move?
Paul Casey snatches a share of the lead! Following up from his chip-in at 8, he whistles his second at 9 to ten feet and cleans up. He’s out in 33, and could this be the 43-year-old Englishman’s time at last? He’s -7.
Li is always struggling after that wayward tee shot on 5. He punches up to the edge of the green, but he leaves his third a good 12 feet short, and it leads to his second bogey of the week. He then flays his tee shot at 6 into the rough down the right, and this is a little wobble. Meanwhile Champ gets up and down from sand at the side of 7, Day and Berger both drop one at 6; and it’s all change at the top of a congested leaderboard.
-7: Champ (7), Koepka (7), Li (5)
-6: Scheffler (12), Wolff (11), D Johnson (10), Griffin (9), Casey (8), Berger (6), Day (6)
On the short par-four 7th, Brooks Koepka sends his tee shot into a greenside bunker on the right. As it sailed off target, he muttered a wee curse word. The F word. Eff. Fuck. “Apologies for any language you might have heard there,” says Sky Sports announcer Nick Dougherty. It’s 12.04 in the morning. The poor guy’s only doing his job, but … is there really any need? Eff and Jeff away, Brooks, it’s long after the watershed, the kiddies are in bed, we’re all grown-ups.
It wouldn’t be a major championship without a Dustin Johnson double, and here we go. He makes a rare old horlicks of the long par-four 9th, always out of position after a wayward tee shot. Bunker trouble, followed by a not particularly distinguished chip, and he clatters back to -5. Meanwhile Paul Casey holes out from a bunker at 8 for birdie; he’s -6.
The wind has picked up, the greens are getting harder, the birdies have dried up a bit. Bogey for Scheffler at 11; he’s back to -6. Li drives towards the trees down the left of 5. Koepka dunks his approach at 6 into thick nonsense at the back of the green. But Lanto Griffin bucks the current trend, following up his earlier birdie at 4 with another at 7. He’s -6.
Rose’s ball stays on the fringe, and he lags up well from 50 feet or so. But that’s still his third five in the opening five holes, and another bogey. He’s back at -4 again, and you have to wonder whether yesterday’s sad events at Wentworth, where a nearby fire caused the Rose Ladies Series Grand Final to be abandoned, have taken their toll.
A two-putt birdie for Berger on the par-five 4th, and he’s the latest to join the gaggle at -7. Scheffler remains stuck there, having only parred 10, a hole that’s been giving up eagles never mind birdies. Meanwhile more problems for Rose, this time at 5. A poor approach sends his ball down a swale at the back of the green. He’s not got much green in front of the hole to chip back up onto. He opens the face of his club for a flop and … thins it. Not sure whether that’s gone off the other side of the green, as the director cuts away to spare his blushes, but even if it’s stayed on, it’ll be a monster putt coming back for par.
An incredibly poor tee shot at the par-three 3rd by Fleetwood. It’s wide right and a long way short of the putting surface. His chip up isn’t much cop either, and he’s left with a long par rake coming back. He can’t make it. He’s -5. Li pars. Up on 7, Dustin underhits an eagle putt from the fringe but not so badly that he can’t tidy up for birdie. He’s back to -7. Birdie for Tony Finau at 10, which moves him back to -6 after a dropped shot at 9. Birdie for Paul Casey at 5; he’s -6. And Joel Dahmen follows eagle at 10 with bogey. He’s -6.
Koepka saunters up the par-five 4th and makes a birdie without any fuss. He joins the group at -7. Meanwhile up on 18, McIlroy taps in for … bogey. And that followed bogey at 17. Probably just as well the cameras weren’t trained on him. It’s a 71, and his game really is in a strange place right now. It’s not in a complete Jordan Spieth style muddle … but it’s not exactly functioning properly either. He’s level par, with some thinking to do ahead of tomorrow, never mind next month’s US Open.
So having said Li looked a little more settled, he leaves his 25-foot birdie putt five short. But he tidies up, showing no nerves with the par putt. Hard to say whether this is a good sign or bad. Too early. Still just one bogey all week for the young Chinese star, though. Fleetwood also pars. Meanwhile on 4, birdie for Champ, who passes Dustin Johnson going the other way, the big man bogeying 6 after a wild tee shot. And it’s all change at the top, because Joel Dahmen, a man who wrings every drop out of life having had his health problems in the past, drains a big eagle putt across 10 to join the group in second! Imagine if he hadn’t imploded with that triple-bogey on his last hole last night!
-8: Li (2)
-7: Dahmen (10), Scheffler (9), Champ (4), Day (3)
Morikawa slips at 12, having sent his approach wide right. Chipping from thick rough, he couldn’t hold the green, and the bogey takes him back to -5. Meanwhile Scheffler pars the long 9th and hits the turn in 31, while Li appears to have settled any nerves with a couple of calms swipes down 2. He’s on in regulation, which despite his wayward work off the tee, has been his MO this week: yesterday he made 14 out of 18 greens in regulation.
More frustration for Rose, as he sends his tee shot at 3 over the flag, but watches in despair as his 20-footer coming back turns away just before it reaches the cup. Par, which at least steadies the ship.
Rose continues to walk about with a comic-book black cloud over his head, as his second at 2 flies hot through the green. He can’t get up and down from cabbage, and it’s a dismal start for Hampshire’s finest. Pars for Fleetwood and Li at 1. After a cracking drive, Li played the rest of the hole in a slightly shaky fashion, coming up short with both wedge and first putt. No wonder, perhaps: he’s the first player outside the world 100 to hold a 36-hole lead at a major since Ricky Barnes at Bethpage Black in the 2009 Open. Barnes led after 54-holes in that event, too, before having a shocker on the front nine in the final round, ending with a 76 that gifted the prize to Lucas Glover. Everyone wanted a resurgent David Duval to win that day, if memory serves, but I digress.
Up on the green, Jason Day opens with a birdie. He made that hole look extremely easy. He snatches second place to himself … for about 0.0002345 seconds. Dustin Johnson makes it three birdies in four holes at 5 to join him, then Scottie Scheffler chips in on 8. That’s four birdies in five for the 24-year-old from Texas. Meanwhile up on 16, Rory refuses to throw in the towel, despite the hammer blow of those bogeys at 13 and 14. A birdie at 16, and he’s hanging on in there. Just.
-7: Scheffler (8), D Johnson (5), Day (1)
-6: Morikawa (11), Finau (8), Champ (3), Lorenzo-Vera (3), Koepka (2), Berger (1), Fleetwood