Alex Noren, who made the cut on the number at 6-over par, showed the rest of the U.S. Open field the way on moving day Saturday at Winged Foot, shooting a 3-under-par 67 to get to 3-over, eight shots behind leader Matthew Wolff.
The Swedish star had one goal in mind at the start of Saturday’s round: Be happy.
“Yesterday I was very, like, angry man on the golf course,’’ Noren said. “I was furious that I didn’t hit the shots that I wanted, and then it kind of affects your game. My goal today was to putt better and be in a little happier place. I just tried to be that way.’’
It didn’t seem like Noren was headed in that direction initially.
“Starting out, it felt like it was going to be the toughest day ever on a golf course, with pretty strong winds on the first, like, six, seven holes,’’ he said. “You hit some shots out here, you think it’s like a decent shot, and then you just make it into the rough, and all of a sudden, the hole feels impossible.
“Normally, you hit decent drives or decent shots off the tee or into the greens and you get away with them. Here you don’t get away with anything. I putted my life out. This is the hardest course I’ve ever played.’’
Of the past 24 U.S. Open champions, 22 of them were within four shots of the lead entering the final round. Of the past 12 champions, 10 of them played in the final group on Sunday. Webb Simpson’s 2012 victory at Olympic Club give some hope to the chasers: He was in 29th place after 36 hole and won.
Bubba Watson has been playing this U.S. Open with some distractions.
Watson, who stands at 5-over par after Saturday’s third round, 10 shots off the lead, is from the Florida Panhandle area that was slammed recently by Hurricane Sally.
Watson has a lot of roots in the area, among them ownership in a candy store and part-ownership in a minor league baseball team and car dealership.
“My friends and family are all OK,’’ Watson said. “My house, my mom’s house, our friends’ houses are all OK. I know there’s a lot of boats that got messed up. I haven’t heard about my business yet.
“I haven’t heard about the candy shop. I know there’s some damage to the Wahoos’ stadium. There’s a little damage to the car dealership, Sandy and Bubba’s Milton Chevrolet. That’s not in Pensacola, but it still had some damage from the storm. I haven’t heard the complete damage of the ice cream shop, the candy shop.’’
Watson revealed that he was prepared to withdraw from the U.S. Open this week if he felt he was needed back home.
“If boss lady says come home, I’m going home,’’ he said of his wife, Angie. “If boss lady said come home or if there have been some more damage to my own house, I’d have been down there as fast as I could get down there.
“I’m just trying to focus on this right now, but when I get home, obviously me and my wife, my family will do something,’’ Watson added. “We can help Pensacola. We’d love to do something like J.J. Watt did a few years ago for Houston. Something like that would be tremendous, just to help the community, lift the spirits of the community because I know there’s some people hurting for sure.
“The [PGA] Tour has asked me how they can help, but I haven’t been there yet. When I get back, we’ll assess how we can help, how we can help as the Watson family, how I can help a community that’s helped me so much.’’
Another player with the Gulf Coast on his mind this week is Scotland’s Robert MacIntyre, who’s donating $3,500 for hurricane relief to McNeese State University in Louisiana for every birdie he makes this week.
“Two weeks before I was coming out here, I just decided we were going to do it,’’ he said Saturday. “I got a few folk on board, my sponsors. Some folk down there in Louisiana, Lake Charles especially, haven’t got much left. It’s all been flattened. For me, I’m just trying to raise as much money as I can.’’
MacIntryre, who shot 76 on Saturday with two birdies, has carded eight for the week.
When you’re looking at your television and the cameras are on the par-3 third hole at Winged Foot, you’ll see a white house right behind the green. That’s the home Rick Pitino recently purchased upon taking over as the Iona basketball coach.
Pitino, who’s a Winged Foot member, has erected a small grandstand that allows him and his guests to watch the golf over the fence — a Pitino perch.