Patrick Cantlay watches his tee shot on the 17th hole...

Patrick Cantlay watches his tee shot on the 17th hole during the third round of the U.S. Open golf tournament Saturday, June 15, 2024, in Pinehurst, N.C. Credit: AP/George Walker IV

PINEHURST, N.C. — Things have slowed down for Patrick Cantlay since that roaring, birdie-filled tear to start the U.S. Open at Pinehurst No. 2.

And that's just fine by him, considering he's just three shots back of leader Bryson DeChambeau entering the final round with a chance to chase down his first major championship.

“It would be great,” Cantlay said. “Pinehurst seems like a great golf course for me. You hit a lot of fairways and you play smart around here, and you can move up the leaderboard with pars and just a few birdies.”

Cantlay shot an even-par 70 on Saturday in the third round, keeping him 4 under for the tournament and putting him with Rory McIlroy for what could be a juicy final-round pairing Sunday. The two players went at each other — their caddies got involved, too — during a heated moment during the Ryder Cup at Marco Simone last year.

Since opening with five birdies in the first 11 holes Thursday, Cantlay has largely avoided major mistakes — outside of a double bogey Friday — to keep himself within reach of the lead. It's been a steady grind, yet it's working on the Donald Ross-designed course, where the domed greens have befuddled players and the sandy native areas caused them fits.

“I think when you miss greens around here, it’s very difficult to chip it or putt it up to tap-in,” Cantlay said. "I say that because a lot of times 4, 5, 6 feet on the other side of the hole it will fall away and fall off the green.

“The patience really is leaving yourself 4 or 5 feet, 3 or 4 feet on the proper side, even on chips and putts from off the green. I did that well today and then made a lot of those putts for par from the proper side of the hole.”

Patrick Cantlay waves after making a putt on the seventh...

Patrick Cantlay waves after making a putt on the seventh hole during the third round of the U.S. Open golf tournament Saturday, June 15, 2024, in Pinehurst, N.C. Credit: AP/Matt York

The 32-year-old Cantlay has eight PGA Tour victories and roughly $45.5 million in winnings since joining the tour a decade ago. Yet he's still hunting for a major title after finishing in the top 10 four times: twice in the PGA Championship (2019, 2023), once in the Masters (2019) and once in the British Open (2022).

He tied for 14th for his best U.S. Open finish in each of the past two years.

His torrid start Thursday put him alongside McIlroy atop the leaderboard, a day that featured only one bogey and six birdies — the last coming on a 15-footer to close his round — for a 5-under 65, which remains the lowest of the tournament so far.

Yet things have been quieter, even calmer, since then.

There had been one major mistake: a double bogey on his eighth hole Friday, when his approach shot fell off the right side of the green, his ensuing chip rolled past the flagstick and off the other side of the green, and a chip attempt ended up slowly rolling back down to his side of the green.

Otherwise, he has five birdies and four bogeys through the remaining 35 holes over the past two days.

Cantlay bogeyed his first hole Saturday after buzzing the right side of the cup on a 15-footer for par, though he got the stroke back on the fifth when he chipped onto green and rolled the ball within a few feet for a birdie finish.

After bogeying his ninth hole, Cantlay kept racking up pars before landing his tee shot on 17 within 20 feet of the flag before holing a downhill birdie putt to get back to even on the day and set up a Sunday push.

“I think it takes patience and discipline,” Cantlay said. "I’ve done a good job of that this week trying not to fire at too many flagsticks, especially when I don’t have a wedge in my hands.

“This golf course is all about managing your leaves and being smart. I feel like I’ve done a good job of that so far, and I’m going to take that game plan into tomorrow.”

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