LOS ANGELES — Rickie Fowler and Wyndham Clark sit atop a star-studded US Open leaderboard that includes Rory McIlroy and Scottie Scheffler, setting the stage for a Hollywood ending to the drama unfolding at the Los Angeles Country Club this week.
After an up-and-down front nine in Saturday’s third round, Mr. Fowler settled into a groove on the back nine and would have had the outright lead if his par putt on 18 hadn’t lipped out, leading to a frustrating bogey.
“Bummer to have that one slip away, but tomorrow is a whole new day,” Mr. Fowler said after grinding out a round of even-par 70.
“Tomorrow is when the tournament starts.”
Fan favorite Mr. Fowler and lesser-known Mr. Clark are knotted at 10-under par with four-time major champion Mr. McIlroy one stroke back at nine-under and world number one Mr. Scheffler lurking three off the lead.
The eventual champion has been within four shots of the lead heading into the final round of the last 24 US Opens.
Southern California native Mr. Fowler’s round included a perfectly measured 69-foot birdie putt on 13 that sent the supportive crowd into a frenzy under sunny skies in LA, and he will be gunning for a breakthrough first major title on Sunday.
“Obviously it would be huge. Especially being here in Southern California, having a lot of my people, family and friends out here this week,” Mr. Fowler said.
It has been a long road back for Mr. Fowler, a former top-10 golfer who last September dropped to a career-low 185th in the rankings. He said his struggles have taught him to be fearless.
“After going through the last few years, I’m not scared to fail,” he said.
“I’ve dealt with that. We’re just going to go have fun, continue to try to execute, leave it all out there, see where we stand on 18.”
Mr. Fowler will be paired again with the confident Mr. Clark, who beat a stacked field at Quail Hollow for his first PGA Tour victory last month.
Mr. Clark went bogey free with two birdies through his first nine holes to take the outright lead from Mr. Fowler but wobbled with back-to-back bogeys on 11 and 12 and another on 17.
But the 29-year-old bounced back nicely with a birdie on 18, pumping his fist as he regained momentum ahead of the biggest round of his career on Sunday.
“There’s a lot of emotion. It’s a US Open,” Mr. Clark said.
“I wanted to be in that final group.”
World number three Mr. McIlroy had a solid round of 69 where he mixed three birdies with two bogeys to keep his hopes of ending a nine-year major championship drought alive.
He said he was less interested in calling on his past championship experience, preferring instead to focus on the task at hand.
“It’s been such a long time since I’ve done it,” Mr. McIlroy told reporters.
“I’m going out there to try to execute a game plan, and I feel like over the last three days I’ve executed that game plan really, really well.
“I just need to do that for one more day.”
World number one Mr. Scheffler finished his round with a flourish, holing out from the 17th fairway from 197 yards for a jaw-dropping eagle.
He caused the crowd to erupt once again on the par-four 18th when he drilled a long birdie putt, pumping his fist after carding a round of 68.
“I was fighting all day today, trying to just get myself back in position,” he said.
“Just fortunate to see that shot go in on 17 and then a nice birdie on 18 to kind of get myself back into it.” — Reuters