Berliner Tageblatt - Aberg chases US Open debut win while Scheffler struggles

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Aberg chases US Open debut win while Scheffler struggles
Aberg chases US Open debut win while Scheffler struggles / Photo: © GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA/AFP

Aberg chases US Open debut win while Scheffler struggles

Ludvig Aberg, trying to become the first US Open debut winner since 1913, teed off with a one-stroke lead in Saturday's third round at Pinehurst, where top-ranked Scottie Scheffler was 11 strokes adrift.

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Sweden's sixth-ranked Aberg stood on five-under 135 after 36 holes when he began alongside 2020 US Open winner Bryson DeChambeau.

After a runner-up effort in last month's PGA Championship, DeChambeau was among eight of 12 starters from Saudi-backed LIV Golf who made the cut for the weekend.

Also one stroke off the pace with DeChambeau on four-under were ninth-ranked American Patrick Cantlay and Belgium's Thomas Detry.

And France's Matthieu Pavon joined them with a six-foot birdie putt at the first hole.

Four-time major winner Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland was another shot back on three-under with American Tony Finau.

Only 12 players were under par for the tournament as the perils of Pinehurst took a toll, with its dome-shaped elevated greens and dirt and weeds waste areas.

Scheffler, the hottest golfer entering the week and a huge favorite, fired a one-over 71 to stand on six-over 216 through 54 holes.

"Another frustrating day," Scheffler said. "I thought I played a lot better than my score. I'm having a lot of trouble reading these greens."

After a bogey at the par-4 fourth, finding native area left off the tee, Scheffler sank a 17-foot birdie putt at the eighth.

He missed a three-footer for par to bogey the par-3 ninth, but bounced back with a birdie putt from just inside nine feet at 11.

Scheffler, who made the cut on the number at five-over 145, missed a nine-foot par putt to bogey the par-3 15th and parred in from there.

"Definitely tricky pin positions," Scheffler said. "With the way these runoffs are, it's going to be pretty challenging this afternoon."

Scheffler was the first player since Tom Watson in 1980 to win five US PGA Tour events before the US Open, taking the fifth last week at the Memorial, and has 12 top-10 finishes in 13 events this season.

The usually stoic and calm Scheffler, however, could feel the frustration at Pinehurst's unique challenge, flipping his putter in the air and letting it fall after one near miss Friday and also slamming down his driver after a woefully errant tee shot.

"Golf is a mental torture chamber at times, especially the US Open," said Scheffler, who refused to call the course borderline unfair.

"When it comes to the US Open, 'borderline' is such like a trigger word," he said.

The US Open winner takes $4.3 million and the runner-up a hefty $2.32 million from a record $21.5 million purse.

But Aberg, runner-up at April's Masters in his major debut, could carry off a bit of history as well.

Not since 20-year-old American amateur Francis Ouimet upset Britain's Harry Vardon and Ted Ray at The Country Club in his hometown of Brookline, Massachusetts, some 111 years ago has a player won the US Open in his debut.

Aberg is the first debut player since Taiwan's Chen Tze-chung in 1985 to lead the US Open after 36 holes.

- Deadly accuracy -

The 24-year-old Swede has triumphs on the US PGA Tour and DP World Tour since turning professional a year ago.

A major reason for his lead at punishing Pinehurst is that Aberg leads all players in both driving accuracy at 93% and greens in regulation at 83%, mainly avoiding the course's two major danger zones.

The best any Swedish player has done in a US Open is fourth by Niclas Fasth, Robert Karlson and Henrik Stenson.

Cantlay, in his best spot after 36 holes in 30 major starts, has a chance to move past Collin Morikawa for the final spot on the US team for the Paris Olympics but needs no worse than a two-way share of second to do it.

Morikawa fired a 66 on Saturday to stand on level par 210, closing his round with a 25-foot birdie putt and showing contenders low rounds are on offer.

E.Schubert--BTB