Marc Leishman has welcomed a brutal third round at the US Open as a blowout from Jason Day and Adam Scott left him as Australia’s best hope to reel in runaway leader Dustin Johnson.
Australia’s contingent at Shinnecock Hills was whittled down to just Leishman and Aaron Baddeley, with seven Australians missing the cut at the year’s second major.
Leishman fought his way back into contention with a one-under-par 69 which left the Victorian tied 11th at three over, seven shots back of world No.1 Johnson.
Baddeley shot 72 and at six over he is in equal 35th place.
Former US Open champion Johnson fired a brilliant 67 to climb to four under and he will take a four-shot cushion over Scott Piercy (71) and Charley Hoffman (69) into day three in New York.
Defending champion Brooks Koepka (66), major winners Justin Rose and Henrik Stenson (both 70), as well as Englishmen Tommy Fleetwood (66) and Ian Poulter (72) share fourth at one over.
Australia’s two biggest names, Scott and Day, both missed the cut at the US Open for a second consecutive year .
Billed as one of the pre-tournament favourites, world No.8 Day shot 73 to finish at 12 over, while Scott’s 75 sank him to 13 over.
“I started today on the back foot and you had to do something special to keep up; it was tough out there,” Day said.
World No.14 Leishman expects officials to dish up tough pin placements and fast greens in the third round after 14 players shot rounds under par on Saturday (Friday local time).
“I’m expecting it to be very tough; the greens will speed up because I don’t think they would have liked the scores they saw this afternoon,” Leishman said.
But with a razor-sharp short game, three-time US PGA Tour winner Leishman says a nasty Shinnecock set-up plays into his hands.
“Definitely, my short game has been pretty good so far this week, so the harder it gets the more greens guys are going to miss and I feel that’s an advantage to me,” Leishman said.
“Dustin is playing great golf; anyone who is going to catch him is going to have to play really really well.”
With the cut falling at eight over, Australians exiting early included Jason Scrivener (71, nine over), Matt Jones (74, 10 over), Cameron Smith (72, 11 over), David Bransdon (74, 13 over) and Lucas Herbert (74, 17 over).
Three-time US Open winner Tiger Woods’ 72 left him at 10 over and heading home early.