Golf

Putnam prospers again with another under-par score at US Open

tmilles@thenewstribune.com

Michael Putnam reacts after making a putt on the third hole during the first round of the U.S. Open golf tournament Thursday at Erin Hills in Erin, Wis.
Michael Putnam reacts after making a putt on the third hole during the first round of the U.S. Open golf tournament Thursday at Erin Hills in Erin, Wis. The Associated Press

For years, University Place’s Michael Putnam was blue about his U.S. Open scoring.

That has changed this week.

It’s gone red.

In his first 13 career U.S. Open rounds, Putnam never broke par. But on Saturday, he did in back-to-back rounds, this time with a 1-under-par 71 at Erin Hills.

His three-round total of 2-under 214 has him tied for 30th heading into Sunday’s final round.

And for the second time in his career, Putnam recorded an eagle-2 at a U.S. Open. This one came on the 15th hole Saturday.

Oddly enough, his first one also came in the third round of a U.S. Open — in 2007 at Oakmont Country Club in Pennsylvania.

USGA officials moved up the tee at No. 15, an uphill par 4 with all sorts of trouble surrounding the green.

“I took the bait,” Putnam said.

But for Putnam, the 288-yard hole set up at an ideal yardage for a 3-wood.

“A perfect yardage off the deck (without a tee),” Putnam said. “If I had teed it up, I thought it was maybe too much club.”

It was 265 yards to the front of the green, which is where Putnam landed his drive. And it carried all the way to a backboard on the back fringe, and retreated back toward the hole.

Putnam canned the 6-foot putt for eagle to move to 1-under for the day.

Two holes later, he flushed an 8-iron close to the pin at the long par 4, setting up a tap-in birdie.

But on the finishing hole, Putnam’s drive sailed right, hit a spectator in the leg and bounced further right into tall, heavy fescue. It led to a bogey.

“I hit a few more balls in the weeds today, and got some really bad lies,” Putnam said. “But I hit a lot of really good shots from the fairway.”

This championship is setting up to be Putnam’s best showing at a major.

And after playing behind Patrick Reed all day, watching the fellow American make birdie and birdie in posting a 65 — the second-best score all day — Putnam knows he has room to climb the leaderboard quickly as well.

“A low number is out there,” Putnam said.

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