SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y., June 17 (Reuters) - Rickie Fowler took advantage of benign conditions with a closing five-under-par 65, the best round of the championship as birdies were plentiful early on Sunday in the final round at the U.S. Open.
Officials watered the greens overnight and on Sunday morning in an effort to avoid a repeat of Saturday’s fiasco.
There were almost as many birdies as bogeys at Shinnecock Hills among the early starters, with approach shots landing softly and often imparting some backspin.
But it was much the same early on Saturday, before the greens dried out in strong winds and low humidity, leading to some near-farcical scenes as the grass wilted under a baking sun.
“In preparation for today’s forecasted dry and windy conditions and to maintain a challenging yet fair U.S. Open test, we applied appropriate levels of water to all putting greens last night and this morning for turf health and firmness,” the U.S. Golf Association said in a statement.
“Similar to the preparation we took for round one, green speeds will be, on average, 10-12 inches slower than rounds two and three.
“We also adjusted some hole locations in a manner similar to what we did in round one, reviewing our initial selections and comparing them against our weather forecast and other agronomic data.”
Whether the precautions would avoid scenes similar to Saturday remained to be scene.
The four leaders were due to tee off shortly after 2 PM local time (1800 GMT), with Tony Finau and Daniel Berger in the final pairing, preceded by Dustin Johnson and Brooks Koepka.
The four Americans, at three-over-par 213, led by one stroke from Englishman Justin Rose, with 10 others within four strokes of the frontrunners.
Fowler finished nearly two hours before the leaders teed off, punctuating his day with a tap-in birdie at the last for 11-over 291.
The popular American, still seeking that elusive first major victory, blew his chances with an 84 in the third round, the highest score of the day.
Fowler played the final round with Phil Mickelson, who carded 69 a day after receiving a two-stroke penalty for deliberately hitting a moving ball on the 13th green.
Mickelson finished at 16-over 296.
Reporting by Andrew Both Editing by Gene Cherry