Wind pummels US Open as final round under way


Erin (United States) (AFP)

Powerful winds buffeted the US Open on Sunday as the final round got under way with a cluster of inexperienced contenders aiming to break their major duck.

After three days of benign conditions which have led to a feast of low-scoring, the arrival of strong gusts at Erin Hills suggested the challenging course could finally bare its teeth on Sunday.

Unheralded American Brian Harman leads the field by one shot on 12 under, and will tee off in the final pairing alongside Justin Thomas at 2.54pm local time (1954 GMT).

Thomas exploited soggy fairways and soft greens on Saturday to shoot a dazzling nine-under-par 63, the lowest to-par score for 18 holes in US Open history.

Harman, who had missed the cut in his four previous major appearances, also thrived with a five-under-par 67.

However with strong winds ripping across the exposed, tree-less par-72 layout on Sunday, the odds on another low-scoring day lengthened.

There were early clues that the wind could level the playing field in some of the first groups to tee off on Sunday.

China's Li Haotong dropped four shots in his opening four holes, with a double-bogey and two bogeys.

Kevin Kisner, Tyler Light and Stewart Cink also dropped early shots.

If the winds hold, it could well mean that the final afternoon leaderboard battle comes down to who masters the conditions.

Around a dozen or players are realistically in contention on a crowded leaderboard.

Below Harman on 12 under, three players are tired on 11 under -- Thomas, Brooks Koepka and England's Tommy Fleetwood.

World number nine Rickie Fowler, runner-up in the US Open in 2014, is two off the lead on 10 under.

South Korea's Kim Si-Woo is one back on nine under, just ahead of Patrick Reed, Charley Hoffman and Russell Henley on eight under.

Four other players are tied for 10th on seven under.

Fowler, 28, resurrected his hopes of a maiden major title on Saturday with a four-under-par 68.

Although he trails by two, Fowler is optimistic that he can finally land a major after a series of near-misses.

"I'm looking forward to my shot at it, I know it's not going to be an easy day, for sure," Fowler said.

"I've been there a handful of times and had some good finishes. But I'm looking forward to getting the job done."

Unusually, the finale will not feature any of the world's top three players.

World number one Dustin Johnson, second-ranked Rory McIlroy and Australian world number three Jason Day all missed the cut.