Brooks Koepka, Looking for a U.S. Open Repeat, Grabs a Share of the Lead

Fowler joined an angry chorus questioning the fairness of the course setup when the conditions changed so drastically for the late starters, and Mike Davis, the chief executive of the United States Golf Association, conceded that there had been a problem.

“We must slow the course down tonight, and we will,” he said, adding, “We saw some examples late in the day where well-executed shots were not only not being rewarded, but in some cases penalized.”

But players with excellent track records at the national championship managed to hang on. Koepka, 28, was one of four U.S. Open champions in the top nine. The others were Johnson (three over), Justin Rose (four over) and Jim Furyk (six over).

Berger was in the scoring hut signing for his round when he glanced at a nearby television in time to see Phil Mickelson hit his ball with his putter, slapshot-style, as it rolled well past the hole on the 13th green.

“I was kind of shocked,” Berger said. “I thought it was a joke or something.”

The Englishman Andrew Johnston, who was paired with Mickelson, a five-time major winner, described it as “a moment of madness” and said, “It’s something you might see at your home course with your mates or something.”

It was not a joke. And if it was a moment of madness, it was a calculated one, according to Mickelson, who incurred a two-stroke penalty for stroking his ball while it was still moving and walked off the green with a 10 on his way to an 81. It was his first score over 79 during a PGA Tour season since November 2003, and it matched his highest previous round in this event, which he posted in 1992 as a newly minted pro.

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