US Open: McIlroy on the charge as Johnson keeps himself in the hunt, Henley reaches the turn ahead

By Sports Desk June 19, 2021

Rory McIlroy and Dustin Johnson kept themselves well within a shout of second respective US Open successes with excellent third rounds on Saturday.

Johnson put in his best performance of this year's event at Torrey Pines, carding a 68 which moved the world number one to one under par, and he would surely have been even closer to the leaders if not for a dismal loss of form on the back nine on Friday.

"I feel like I'm swinging really well. I didn't drive it on the fairway enough but I felt like I managed the game pretty well. I rolled the putter really nicely today and made a lot of clutch par putts, which is what you've got to do in the US Open," Johnson told Sky Sports.

"When I was on the fairway I felt like I played pretty well, my irons were good and I'm controlling my distance – I'm just not getting enough shots from the fairway.

"I felt like they did a really good job of setting the course up - if you drive it on the fairway, you can attack the golf course and it's been like that all week. There's a few holes obviously where you will take a four and run but for the most part the way they set it up today, you can attack it."

McIlroy, meanwhile, went one better, finishing on 67 for the round to keep his chances firmly alive. The 2011 champion's birdie on the 18th ensured he was the clubhouse leader at three under.

Russell Henley, meanwhile, reached the turn with a two-shot lead over Richard Bland.

The overnight leader reached the front of the ninth in two shots, yet missed his eagle attempt and subsequently had to settle for a three-out par, whereas Henley snatched a birdie.

However, Henley then dropped a shot on the 10th, immediately cancelling out his own advantage.

Bryson DeChambeau is also in the hunt, with the defending champion T3 with McIlroy, Jon Rahm and Matthew Wolff.

Paul Casey had looked sharp earlier in the day, yet bogeys on the 16th and 17th meant he had to settle for 67, and heads into round four on par.

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    Golf's world number two, Jon Rahm, believes teenage compatriot Carlos Alcaraz can benefit from having Rafael Nadal around as his burgeoning tennis career progresses.

    Nineteen-year-old Spaniard Alcaraz became the first tennis player to beat both Nadal and Novak Djokovic in the same tournament on clay, on his way to becoming the youngest ever winner at the Madrid Open earlier in May.

    Alcaraz has won three of the past four tournaments he has entered, including the Miami Open, moving to number six in the ATP world rankings and emerging as a serious challenger for the French Open, which starts on Sunday.

    When asked about Alcaraz's rapid ascent, Rahm said Alcaraz can still learn a lot from 21-time grand slam winner Nadal.

    "I thought you were talking about a golfer. I was just confused," Rahm joked, speaking ahead of this week's US PGA Championship. "I've heard about what he's done, and I've seen the results. Pretty impressive, especially in the world of tennis.

    "He's got some big shoes to fill, because historically Spain has had great tennis players, and obviously with Rafa out there it can be probably daunting yet really exciting too for somebody like him.

    "You have a great reference who's done it right in front of you, so I'm sure he can pick his brain and learn. He's got a great start. Hopefully he can keep it going and be a great champion like many others have been."

    Following a tie for 27th at the Masters, Rahm returned to action earlier in May, winning the Mexico Open.

    The lingering dynamic this weekend at Southern Hills will be the fact Phil Mickelson will not be there to defend his title, following his controversial remarks about the Saudi-backed breakaway golf tour.

    Rahm and Mickelson share the same alma mater and agency, and the former continued to defend the six-time major winner.

    "Phil has got to do what Phil has got to do," Rahm said. "He's a good friend of mine. I can't remember the last time a major champion didn't defend a title.

    "But he's got to do what's best for him. That's all I can say. I can't say it makes me unhappy. As long as he's doing what is best for him, I can't truly say I'm unhappy.

    "I would have liked to see him defend. I know he's played good here in the past. But again, he's got to do what he's got to do."

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