Pavon grabs one-stroke US Open lead with sizzling start at Pinehurst

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Pavon grabs one-stroke US Open lead with sizzling start at Pinehurst

Matthieu Pavon reacts after making a birdie on the seventh hole
Matthieu Pavon reacts after making a birdie on the seventh holeAFP
Matthieu Pavon (31), trying to become only the second Frenchman to win a major title, made three birdies on the front nine at Pinehurst to grab a one-stroke lead in Saturday's third round of the US Open.

World number 24 Pavon stood on six-under at the turn with 36-hole leader Ludvig Aberg of Sweden next on five-under through six holes.

A pack on four-under included Americans Tony Finau, Patrick Cantlay and Bryson DeChambeau while four-time major winner Rory McIlroy and England's Tyrrell Hatton were on three-under.

Pavon sank a six-foot birdie putt at the first and made a tap-in birdie at the par-5 fifth but still trailed after sixth-ranked Aberg sank a 28-foot birdie putt at the third to reach six-under.

But Aberg was short of the green with his approach at the fourth to stumble back just before Pavon took the lead with a birdie putt from just outside 21 feet at the seventh.

Not since Arnaud Massy took the 1907 British Open has a French golfer won a major.

But Pavon became the first French winner on the PGA Tour since Massy's triumph at Royal Liverpool when he won at Torrey Pines in January.

Aberg, April's Masters runner-up in his major debut, could become the first US Open debut winner since 1913, when 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.

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

Top-ranked Scottie Scheffler was 12 strokes adrift. American Scheffler, the hottest golfer entering the week and a huge favourite, fired a 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."

Finau sank an 11-foot birdie putt at the second and tapped in for birdie at the fifth but made bogey at six, finding a bunker off the tee.

Cantlay stumbled with an opening bogey but birdied the fifth.

Cantlay 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.

DeChambeau, the 2020 US Open winner and runner-up at last month's PGA Championship, fell back with a bogey at the fourth but birdied the fifth.

Hatton birdied the second and made an eagle putt from just inside 14 feet at the par-5 fifth to climb within one of the lead before a bogey at the par-3 sixth dropped him back.

Northern Ireland's McIlroy, seeking his first major win in 10 years, dropped his approach inside three feet at the third hole and sank his birdie putt only to bogey the par-3 sixth after a 10-foot par miss.

'Mental torture chamber'

Only 11 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, who made the cut on the number at five-over 145, had three bogeys and two birdies.

"Definitely tricky pin positions," Scheffler said.

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, flipped his putter in the air and slammed down a driver on Friday.

"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.

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