Scores continue to soar at wicked Winged Foot

Co-leader Mickelson one of two to break par

Ferrie also on top

U.S. Open


MAMARONECK, N.Y. -- It was about an hour before the leaders began yesterday's third round of the U.S. Open and Darren Clarke's agent, Chubby Chandler, stood on the edge of the driving range at Winged Foot Golf Club, swinging a wooden stick.

What he should have done was take that stick over to the first hole and drive it into the heart of the green. Maybe that would have killed the beast before it gobbled up any more golfers.

At this point, Winged Foot is kicking tail. Everybody knows that the U.S. Open is the toughest golf tournament in the world, but things are getting out of hand here at this leafy layout in an otherwise serene section of the Hudson River Valley.

Maybe it's even plausible that Tiger Woods had the right approach - just take your lumps and leave as soon as possible.

Phil Mickelson, who shares the 54-hole lead, was one of only two players to break par in the third round at Winged Foot, where instead of a golf tournament, the scene brought to mind a prison yard at recess.

"It's a very hard golf course," Mickelson said, assuming the lead in the understatement-of-the-year department.

And the U.S. Open is something else, according to David Howell: "All in all, it's so bizarre a tournament."

Not one person stood up to argue with him.

Peter Hedblom had a hole in one and an eagle in a three-hole stretch and still finished 1-over par.

Vijay Singh started the day tied for 14th, shot even par and is now tied for fourth. Ian Poulter did the same thing.

Padraig Harrington all but whiffed on a ball in the rough along the 18th fairway, then three-putted for a triple bogey, yet he's still just four shots from the lead.

Graeme McDowell chipped the ball onto the 18th green but didn't get it over the hump and watched it roll right back to where he was standing. That also happened to Poulter.

Henrik Stenson was horrified when the shaft of his 4-iron snapped at the top of his swing at the 15th tee.

"My caddie thought I should have been happy not to be cut in half," Stenson said.

That's some positive thinking, all right. There actually were moments when double bogey didn't sound like such a bad score.

Colin Montgomerie found himself in ankle-deep rough at the third hole, sent his second shot into a bunker and was fortunate to escape with a 5. Montgomerie didn't have a single par until the seventh hole and still managed to end the day tied for fourth.

Nobody even blinked when a squirrel ran across the fairway right in front of Kenneth Ferrie as he got ready for his second shot at the 18th. All they needed to finish the act was a ringmaster, a juggling act and a bunch of clowns.

The unusual was so common that the slimmed-down Ferrie shares the third-round lead with Mickelson.

Ferrie is playing in his first U.S. Open. The last player to win the Open in his first try was Francis Ouimet in 1913, so Ferrie is fighting history while he tries to tackle Winged Foot.

The way the place is set up, it's hardly a fair fight. Yesterday, they moved the tee back at the par-3 third hole so it measured 234 yards. Then they stuck the pin at the narrowest part of the green, at the front, six paces in from both sides.

The results were immediate. On Friday, it was the 11th-toughest hole. Yesterday, it ranked second.

Hedblom, who aced it, and Ferrie, who birdied it, were the only players to solve the third hole.

So far, there are many more problems than answers.

Besides harrowing pin placements, narrow fairways and greens where every putt was an adventure, there's one more element to add to the mix today. The Westchester County Department of Health announced that the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation issued a smog alert.

As if temperatures in the low 90s, suffocating pressure and a punishing golf course aren't enough, going outside is now dangerous to your health.

There are a bunch of players who could have told you that already.

Thomas Bonk writes for the Los Angeles Times.


Third Round

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