Novak Djokovic blamed mental and physical exhaustion after another desperate day for the Serbian at the Olympic Games meant he will leave Tokyo empty-handed.

The world number one lost 6-4 6-7 (6-8) 6-3 to Pablo Carreno Busta in the singles bronze medal match, smashing one racket against a net post and tossing another into the stands in gestures of frustration.

Djokovic then cited a shoulder injury as he pulled out of the mixed doubles third-place match. That decision meant Ash Barty and John Peers of Australia took bronze, with Djokovic and his unfortunate Serbia partner Nina Stojanovic finishing fourth.

"I am dealing with injuries. Not one, more than one," Djokovic said in an interview with Serbian media, according to tennismajors.com. "I hope that it won't stop me from going to the US Open, which is my next big goal.

"I feel bad for Nina because we did not fight for a medal in mixed, but my body said 'enough'. I have played under medications and abnormal pain and exhaustion."

The 34-year-old Djokovic said he had put his "very last source of energy" into the tournament and was satisfied with his effort, with a semi-final defeat to Alexander Zverev on Friday having left him resigned to a battle for what by his standards was perceived as a consolation prize.

But Djokovic added: "I know I've not played well today, and yesterday in the second and third set.

"The exhaustion, both physical and mental, got to me and it's unfortunate that in the most important matches I just didn't deliver, but I gave it all."

Djokovic suggested the Paris Olympics in 2024 were a possible target, although he must be becoming sick of Olympic tennis by now, having only one bronze to show for four attempts to win gold.

He took bronze in 2008 but lost to Argentina's Juan Martin del Potro both in the third-place match at London 2012 and the first round at Rio 2016.

Now there is more Games agony to digest, as well as a need to reboot ahead of the upcoming North American hardcourt swing and that US Open campaign. His hopes of a calendar Golden Slam are over but a sweep of the grand slams remains a possibility, having already landed the Australian Open, French Open and Wimbledon titles.

"I've had some heart-breaking losses at the Olympics Games," Djokovic said. "I know that those losses have usually made me stronger. I know that I will bounce back. I will try to keep going for the Paris Olympic Games. I will fight for my country to win medals."

Carreno Busta's reaction was thoroughly refreshing, with the Spaniard jubilant to secure a medal.

He said: "This week has been a very harsh week mentally for me. When I saw Novak lost, and I had to play him for this medal, I had my doubts.

"But last night I slept like I haven't slept in Tokyo. I slept for nine hours straight, that was an advantage to me. I came on to the court today knowing Spain was behind me.

"This is even more incredible than winning other tournaments. I've won Davis Cup, I've gone far in other tournaments, but winning an Olympic medal is indescribable. Words fail me, I felt Spain rallying behind me. A bronze medal is a dream come true for me."

The knock-on effort of Djokovic's withdrawal from the mixed doubles meant Barty and Peers added to Australia's medals haul without having to step on court for the third-place play-off.

Barty insisted she and Peers were worthy bronze medallists, saying: "It's incredible. It's unique circumstances and heartbreaking for Team Serbia not to get out on court.

"But for Johnny and I this is a dream come true for us. I feel like we've really deserved this one."

Roger Federer is in the draw for the US Open, but it remains unclear whether he will be fit to take part in the final grand slam of the year.

The United States Tennis Association confirmed on Wednesday that Federer was one of six former men's champions to receive direct entry into the draw.

Federer this month withdrew from the Olympic Games, citing a setback with his knee, on which he had two surgeries in 2020.

The Swiss, though, expressed his desire to return the tour, with Flushing Meadows providing his last chance to add to his tally of 20 major titles in 2021.

A five-time winner in New York, Federer has not reached the final at the US Open since 2015.

In the women's singles draw, Naomi Osaka and Serena Williams have each received direct entries into the draw.

Reigning champion Osaka missed Wimbledon having withdrawn from the French Open after the first round to protect her well-being amid a fallout following her decision to not attend post-match media conferences.

Williams is still awaiting a record-tying 24th grand slam title, the 39-year-old forced to retire from her first-round match at Wimbledon because of an injury to her right leg.

Novak Djokovic has confirmed he will enter the Olympic Games in Tokyo, with the world number one just two titles away from a first men's Golden Slam.

Rivals Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer, citing respective scheduling and injury issues, have each withdrawn from Tokyo 2020.

But Djokovic confirmed on Thursday he will travel to Japan in pursuit of a groundbreaking achievement.

Only women's tour legend Steffi Graf has previously won all four majors and the Olympics in the same year, doing so in 1988.

Doubles superstars Bob and Mike Bryan held all five titles at once but collected them across 2012 and 2013, while Andre Agassi and Nadal are the only two men's singles players to achieve the feat across an entire career.

Djokovic has already triumphed at the Australian Open, French Open and Wimbledon in 2021, leaving Tokyo and the US Open still to conquer.

The 20-time grand slam champion – a record he tied at the All England Club on Sunday – has entered the Games three times previously but earned only a single bronze medal. Andy Murray is the two-time defending champion.

At Flushing Meadows, Djokovic is a three-time winner.

The 34-year-old confirmed his Olympics plans in a social media post as he sent a message to a young Japanese fan celebrating his sixth birthday.

"Cannot disappoint my little friend Koujirou," Djokovic wrote. "I booked my flight for Tokyo and will proudly be joining #TeamSerbia for the Olympics."

He had said following his Wimbledon win last week: "My plan was always to go to Olympic Games, but right now I'm a little bit divided."

Djokovic added limitations on his travelling party and potentially being unable to watch fellow athletes had reduced the likelihood of an appearance to "50-50".

But he will now feature, even if former Wimbledon champion Pat Cash believes the calendar Grand Slam – winning the four majors but not the Olympics – has to be the Serbian's priority.

Cash told Stats Perform: "It's the Olympics, okay – maybe he wants to do that, but certainly his goal is now to try and win all four grand slams in the calendar year.

"He has done four in a row, but he hasn't done them in the same year, which is very, very tough to do.

"There is a reason why I think one person has done it in [men's] professional tennis – Rod Laver and it was in 1969, so it's not easy to do.

"But I really do think it's in his sights and that has got to be his priority.

"It's absolutely the absolute peak of our sport to win all four grand slams in one year."

Roger Federer's body has been saying no for the past two years, but Pat Cash is hopeful the 39-year-old will return for another run on the ATP Tour.

After suffering a setback to his longstanding knee injury during Wimbledon, the 20-time grand slam champion has this week withdrawn from the Tokyo Olympics.

Despite being without much match practice – playing just four tournaments before Wimbledon after coming back from two knee surgeries - Federer was able to make the quarter-finals at All England Club.

However, he suffered a demoralising loss to Hubert Hurkacz in straight sets in the last eight that promoted a fresh round of speculation over his future in the game.

Cash, who won Wimbledon in 1987, hopes Federer will be back despite his recent injury woe.

He told Stats Perform: "First of all, let's hope that Roger Federer will keep going. 

"I think he can, I think he just needs more matches and probably needs to make sure that he's able to last. 

"But your body starts saying no at some stage and it's been saying that for a couple of years now for him." 

 

Wimbledon winner Novak Djokovic is now level with Rafael Nadal and Federer on 20 slams.

Cash believes judging the Swiss star purely on grand slam titles is not a fair measure of his brilliance, pointing instead to his astonishing record totals of 58 major quarter-final berths and 46 semis.

"He has been the most consistent player that I think we've ever seen," Cash said. "He may not end up with as many grand slams but his consistency is just outrageous.

"All the other players have lost early in grand slams, the Djokovics, the [Andy] Murrays, then the Nadals had lost early in grand slams, Roger just doesn't do it.

"Of all the titles that he's won, I think for me, his most impressive record is how many semi-finals or quarter-finals in grand slams in a row that he got to. It was something ridiculous for 10 or 11 years.

"He never failed at any grand slams and that is just absolutely mind blowing."

 

However long he tries to play on, Cash insists nothing can sour the memories of an extraordinary career from Federer.

Cash added: "Obviously, he raised the bar as far as the standard of tennis has gone. 

"The other players really had to catch up. Novak admitted it, he said, 'Without Roger there, leading the way, I wouldn't have been as good a player as I could have been'. 

"That's the gold standard of Roger Federer over his career and I'm not sure anybody will be as consistent as him in tennis history. 

"He's just phenomenal the way he plays, and we all of course enjoy the style, his movement. And he's a class act off the court as well."

Federer's status for the US Open, which begins on August 30, is unclear, with Djokovic looking to take the outright lead for major titles and achieve a historic calendar year Grand Slam.

Roger Federer has withdrawn from the Tokyo Olympics because of a setback to his knee suffered during the grass-court season.

Olympic gold in singles is one of the few honours missing from Federer's glittering resume, the 20-time grand slam champion having won silver in 2012, losing the gold medal match to Andy Murray less than a month after beating the Briton in the Wimbledon final.

While Murray will be in Tokyo to attempt to defend his title again having successfully retained it in 2016, Federer – a doubles gold medallist in 2008 – has elected not to make the trip to Japan.

"During the grass-court season, I unfortunately suffered a setback with my knee, and have accepted that I must withdraw from the Tokyo Olympic Games," Federer wrote in a statement on Twitter.

"I am greatly disappointed, as it has been an honour and highlight of my career each time I have represented Switzerland.

"I have already begun rehabilitation in the hopes of returning to the tour later this summer. I wish the entire Swiss team best of luck and I will be rooting hard from afar. As always, Hopp Schwiz!"

Federer missed most of the 2020 season due to persistent right knee problems that led him to undergo two surgeries.

The length of his recovery forced Federer to miss this year's Australian Open but he made his return to the tour in time for the French Open, reaching the fourth round before withdrawing to focus on the grass-court season.

Yet he was stunned by Felix Auger-Aliassime in the second round in Halle and was often unconvincing in progressing to the quarter-finals at Wimbledon, where his quest for a ninth title was ended by Hubert Hurkacz, the Pole becoming the first player to win a set 6-0 against Federer at the All England Club.

The 39-year-old's withdrawal makes him the latest tennis big name to pull out of the Tokyo Games. On the men's side, Rafael Nadal and Dominic Thiem decided against competing, while Serena Williams confirmed before her first-round retirement at Wimbledon that she had no plans to play at the Olympics.

World number one Novak Djokovic has said he is "50-50" on going for his first Olympic title. Having won all three majors so far this year, Djokovic is in prime position to become the first man to do the 'Golden Slam' in the same season. Steffi Graf achieved the feat in 1988, with a sweep of the majors followed by her victory at the Seoul Olympics.

Roger Federer has withdrawn from the Tokyo Olympics because of a setback to his knee suffered during the grass-court season.

Angel Cabrera has been sentenced to two years in prison after being found guilty assaulting his former girlfriend.

At a trial held in his hometown of Cordoba, Argentina, the 51-year-old stood accused of assaulting, threatening and harassing Cecilia Torres Mana.

The former US Open and Masters champion was sent to begin a two-year prison sentence immediately after being found guilty by the court.

Cabrera, who denied the charges, had been extradited from Brazil in June after being tracked down to Rio de Janeiro by Interpol agents in January.

The Argentine could face further legal trouble, with his ex-wife and another former partner having also lodged accusations of assault.

Prosecutor Laura Battistelli told TV channel Todo Noticias: "His situation is much more complex than this, he has other charges for which there are arrest warrants too. There are other victims."

Argentina's most successful golfing export, Cabrera won his first major in 2007 when he edged Tiger Woods and Jim Furyk to claim the US Open.

He followed that up with a play-off victory in the 2009 Masters, but last won a tournament in 2014 – the Greenbrier Classic.

U.S. Open champion Jon Rahm knew his "fairytale story" would have a "happy ending" after celebrating his first major title.

Rahm earned a breakthrough triumph at Torrey Pines after outlasting Louis Oosthuizen by one stroke following his final-round 67 in San Diego on Sunday.

The 26-year-old Rahm birdied his final two holes as he became the fourth Spanish player to claim a major and first at the U.S. Open.

"It felt like such a fairytale story that I knew it was going to have a happy ending," Rahm, whose previous best major performance was tied for third at the 2019 U.S. Open, said during his news conference.

"I could just tell, just going down the fairway after that first tee shot, that second shot, and that birdie, I knew there was something special in the air. I could just feel it. I just knew it.

"I couldn't have told you in the moment I felt something special. That's why I played as aggressive as I did because it was like, man, this is my day; everything's going to go right. I felt like that helped me become. I just knew that I could do it and believed it."

"I'm still a little bit on golf mode, right? I feel like, when I'm in that mode, it takes me a while to get out of it," he added. "It probably won't happen tonight. It might happen tomorrow. I don't know, at some point it will hit me. I'm still thinking there might be a playoff. I've been scarred before.

"It's incredible that I'm sitting next to this trophy. A couple weeks ago, I watched my good friend Phil [Mickelson] win it [US PGA Championship]. I took a lot of inspiration from that. I've been close before, and I just knew on a Sunday, the way I have been playing the last few majors, I just had to be close. I knew I could get it done. I'm keeping that good Sunday mojo going. Man, I got it done in a fashion that apparently can only happen to me at Torrey Pines."

Rahm's success came after he was forced to withdraw from the Memorial Tournament when leading by six shots, having tested positive for coronavirus earlier this month.

"I believed from the biggest setbacks we can get some of the biggest breakthroughs, and that's why I stay so positive," said Rahm.

"That's why I kept telling Kelley, when she was devastated about what happened and my family and everybody around me, something good is going to come. I don't know what, but something good is going to come, and I felt it today out there on the golf course."

Oosthuizen was in a three-way share of the lead heading into the deciding round and opened up a one-shot lead on a gripping final day.

But Oosthuizen (71) – the 2010 Open Championship winner – was unable to keep Rahm at bay.

"Right now I didn't win it. I'm second again. It's frustrating. It's disappointing," said Oosthuizen.

"I'm playing good golf, but it's winning a major championship is not just going to happen. You need to go out and play good golf.

"I played good today, but I didn't play good enough."

Jon Rahm birdied his final two holes to outlast Louis Oosthuizen by one stroke for U.S. Open victory and his first major title.

Oosthuizen was in a three-way share of the lead heading into the deciding round and opened up a one-shot lead on a gripping final day at Torrey Pines.

But Rahm rallied in San Diego, where the emotional Spanish star dramatically birdied the 17th and 18th holes to claim a lead he never relinquished on Sunday.

Rahm signed for a four-under-par 67 to finish six under through 72 holes as 2010 Open Championship winner Oosthuizen (71) settled for a runners-up cheque.

At the scene of his maiden PGA Tour win – the 2017 Farmers Insurance Open – Rahm became the fourth player from Spain to win a major and first at the U.S. Open.

Rahm, who was forced to withdraw from the Memorial Tournament when leading by six shots after testing positive for coronavirus earlier this month, said post-round: "I'm a big believer in karma. After what happened a couple of weeks ago, I stayed really positive, knowing big things were coming.

"I didn't know what it was going to be, but I knew we were coming to a special place, I know I got my breakthrough win here, and it's a very special place for my family. The fact my parents were able to come, I got out of COVID protocol early, I just felt like the stars were aligning.

"I can't even believe I made the first two putts! This was definitely for Seve [Ballesteros]. I know he tried a lot, and wanted to win this one most of all. I just don't know how to explain it! I don't know why, but every time we land here, we are happy. We’re in our spot!"

Oosthuizen was initially circumspect on day four, going one over through eight holes to leave the South African one shot behind defending champion Bryson DeChambeau – who came agonisingly close to a sensational hole-in-one at the par-three eighth.

But DeChambeau was unable to maintain his hot start, finishing with a forgettable six-over-par 77 to end the event eight shots off the pace.

Oosthuizen also failed to keep Rahm at bay – dropped shots at the 11th and 17th holes, paving the way for the red-hot Spanish golfer to emerge triumphant for the first time at a major.

Harris English (68) finished solo third, a stroke better off than Guido Migliozzi (68), two-time U.S. Open winner Brooks Koepka (69) and Collin Morikawa (70) as former world number one Rory McIlroy's final-round 73 resulted in a share of seventh spot at one under.

World number one Dustin Johnson (74) and fellow stars Jordan Spieth (72) Justin Thomas (73), Patrick Reed (67) and Sergio Garcia (68) closed out the event tied for 19th.

Louis Oosthuizen opened up a one-shot lead in a gripping final round at the U.S. Open.

Oosthuizen was in a three-way share of the lead heading into Sunday at Torrey Pines but was initially circumspect, going one over through eight.

That put the 2010 Open winner a shot behind defending champion Bryson DeChambeau, who came agonisingly close to a sensational hole-in-one at the par-three eighth.

That birdie result was enough for the outright lead on five under at the turn, although the American's first bogey of the weekend on 11 came as Oosthuizen's putter heated up, picking up shots on nine and 10. Oosthuizen dropped one at 11 though.

DeChambeau erred again, meaning Jon Rahm – who flew out of the blocks with back-to-back birdies – was the nearest challenger to Oosthuizen alongside another overnight leader Mackenzie Hughes on four under.

Rory McIlroy drained a 35-footer on the fourth, leaving him well-placed early on minus four.

However, the Northern Irishman passed up three further birdie opportunities by the midway point of his round and his hopes were fading when he bogeyed the 11th.

That left McIlroy level on three under with Brooks Koepka, although the American four-time major winner was through 16 holes and appeared to have missed his moment to make a decisive move.

The 2020 US PGA champion Collin Morikawa was one of the pack on four under until he went through the green on 13 and left with a double bogey.

Louis Henley was alongside Oosthuizen and Hughes in the clubhouse on Saturday but also dropped back to minus two, albeit in less spectacular fashion than Morikawa.

Bryson DeChambeau is fully embracing the atmosphere created by the so-called 'Brooksy bros' at the U.S. Open.

There is little love lost between defending champion DeChambeau and two-time winner Brooks Koepka, with their simmering rivalry one of the more intriguing sub-plots in golf during 2021.

At last month's US PGA Championship, a video of Koepka visibly frustrated at an interruption from DeChambeau went viral, which led to the pair trading back-and-forth jibes on social media.

Prior to the tournament, DeChambeau admitted the two just "don't like each other". On Sunday, as he contemplated going for the par-five 18th in two while in a sand trap, fans of Koepka yelled "go get 'em Brooksy" and "Brooks would go for it".

DeChambeau resisted the temptation to bite but when questioned about it after his round, the world number five insists he is relishing the rivalry.

"Hey, I love it. I think it's so much fun," said DeChambeau, who recorded his first ever bogey-free round in major golf to sit two back of leaders Mackenzie Hughes, Louis Oosthuizen and Russell Henley at three under at Torrey Pines.

"People think that it annoys me. If anything, it just creates a great atmosphere for golf. At first, I didn't really know how to handle it. You're kind of thrown into a situation. 

"But now I enjoy it. I think it's great. You've got to embrace it. There's going to be team Bryson, team Brooks out there, and hey, keep it up, I'm happy about it. 

"I'm excited that one day we can eventually get paired up and play together. It would be fun."

DeChambeau, who scored a three-under 68 in round three, is using driver at almost every opportunity in tactics similar to those he employed when winning at Winged Foot last year.

He says he has learned the nuances of coping with major golf.

"You've got to be really patient out here at these majors. It's something that is not easy to do," he added.

"My first few goes at majors, I was not successful or anywhere near successful, and I feel like I'm starting to understand major championship golf and how to play it and how to go about managing my game, my attitude and just my patience level. 

"If I can continue to do that [on Sunday], I think I'll have a good chance."

Jon Rahm is three off the lead after signing for a one-over 72 on Saturday. The Spaniard thinks being part of the chasing pack may actually play to his strengths.

"I feel like it's easy when you're in the lead to get a little tentative and start trying to be a little bit more safe in certain parts," he said. 

"I feel like when you're a couple shots back, you have nothing to lose early on. So, I feel like you can be a little bit more aggressive and try to get some birdies.

"There will be somebody who gets a fast start, and hopefully that's me tomorrow, and I get a fast start, and I get it going fast."

Since winning The Open in 2010, Oosthuizen has been a perennial nearly man in the majors, recording five runners-up finishes including play-off defeats at the 2012 Masters and 2015 Open, while he was tied second to Phil Mickelson at the PGA Championship last month.

The South African is aiming to take the positives from those experiences, though, saying: "The two that really hurt was the playoffs. That's so close to winning.

"You know, the other ones, just good weeks and good results. Could have been better but taking more positive out of it than anything else."

Oosthuizen drained an eagle at the par-five 18th, which drew a huge reaction from the galleries.

"A year ago, that would have been a very boring eagle with a few people going nuts. But that was nice to see everyone back," he said, alluding to the return of fans who were unable to attend in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Ten years to the day after he wrapped up his first major championship win at Congressional, Rory McIlroy put himself in position for another U.S. Open title by shooting 67 Saturday at Torrey Pines. 

McIlroy is three under par for the tournament, two strokes back of the leading trio of Louis Oosthuizen, Mackenzie Hughes and Russell Henley entering Sunday's final round. 

The Northern Irishman will feel good about his chances after a round that featured five birdies and just one bogey a day after he shot a wobbly 73. 

The lone bogey may have been the key to his round, a difficult save that kept him from losing momentum after what had been a positive day. 

"This is the only tournament in the world where you fist pump a bogey," McIlroy told reporters.

"Only losing one there was a big deal, and getting it up-and-down out of the bunker on 16 and making that birdie on 18 just to get that shot back that I lost, really big."

By the end of the day, McIlroy considered it "one of the best rounds of golf I've played in a while." 

The 32-year-old broke an 18-month title drought with his win at the Wells Fargo Championship in May.

He also won that tournament in Charlotte, North Carolina for his first PGA Tour victory six weeks before securing his first major championship a decade ago.

There will be no repeat of that astonishing eight-stroke victory over Jason Day this weekend, but McIlroy is satisfied to be in the hunt for his first major title since the 2014 US PGA Championship. 

"I mean, I'm trying to think of the last time where I really felt like I had a chance [at a major]," he said.

"Carnoustie in '18 felt like I maybe had half a chance, going into the final day at Pebble in 2019.

"But apart from that, there's been some good finishes but never felt like I was in the thick of things.

"I'm just excited for the opportunity to have a chance and be in one of the final groups."

Louis Oosthuizen and Mackenzie Hughes used eagles on the back nine to surge into a share of the lead heading into the final round of the U.S. Open. 

They join Russell Henley atop a crowded leaderboard at Torrey Pines after the second-round co-leader saved par on 18 to complete an up-and-down round and sit at five under par for the tournament. 

Oosthuizen finished with a flourish, draining a downhill putt for eagle on 18 to cap his one-under 70 as he continues the quest for his second major title 11 years after winning the Open Championship. 

The unheralded Hughes, meanwhile, eagled the 13th and birdied the last for a 68 on the day. He is the first Canadian to hold at least a share of the lead after 54 holes of a major since Mike Weir at the 1999 US PGA Championship. 

The 30-year-old missed the cut in his last five PGA Tour starts and has only one career victory, in the 2016 RSM Classic at Sea Island. 

Impressive as Hughes was, the round of the day belonged to Rory McIlroy (67), who also birdied the 18th to reach three under for the tournament exactly 11 years after he closed out his runaway U.S. Open win at Congressional. 

Bryson DeChambeau (68) also lurks two back of the leaders after a bogey-free third round. 

Jon Rahm (72) is among the group at two under as he seeks his first major title, along with 2020 U.S. Open runner-up Matthew Wolff (73) and Scottie Scheffler (70).

The 2016 U.S. Open champion Dustin Johnson (68) is four back of the lead at one under along with 2020 US PGA champion Collin Morikawa (70), Christiaan Bezuidenhout (70), Xander Schauffele (72) and Kevin Streelman (72). 

Among other notables, Brooks Koepka and Justin Thomas are at even par after shooting 71 Saturday, while Jordan Spieth (68), Martin Kaymer (69), Lee Westwood (71) sit one over. 

Richard Bland, who shared the lead with Henley after the second round, plummeted down the leaderboard to one over with a brutal round of 77 punctuated by the 48-year-old putting his approach shot in the water on 18. 

 

Rory McIlroy and Dustin Johnson kept themselves well within a shout of second respective US Open successes with excellent third rounds on Saturday.

Johnson put in his best performance of this year's event at Torrey Pines, carding a 68 which moved the world number one to one under par, and he would surely have been even closer to the leaders if not for a dismal loss of form on the back nine on Friday.

"I feel like I'm swinging really well. I didn't drive it on the fairway enough but I felt like I managed the game pretty well. I rolled the putter really nicely today and made a lot of clutch par putts, which is what you've got to do in the US Open," Johnson told Sky Sports.

"When I was on the fairway I felt like I played pretty well, my irons were good and I'm controlling my distance – I'm just not getting enough shots from the fairway.

"I felt like they did a really good job of setting the course up - if you drive it on the fairway, you can attack the golf course and it's been like that all week. There's a few holes obviously where you will take a four and run but for the most part the way they set it up today, you can attack it."

McIlroy, meanwhile, went one better, finishing on 67 for the round to keep his chances firmly alive. The 2011 champion's birdie on the 18th ensured he was the clubhouse leader at three under.

Russell Henley, meanwhile, reached the turn with a two-shot lead over Richard Bland.

The overnight leader reached the front of the ninth in two shots, yet missed his eagle attempt and subsequently had to settle for a three-out par, whereas Henley snatched a birdie.

However, Henley then dropped a shot on the 10th, immediately cancelling out his own advantage.

Bryson DeChambeau is also in the hunt, with the defending champion T3 with McIlroy, Jon Rahm and Matthew Wolff.

Paul Casey had looked sharp earlier in the day, yet bogeys on the 16th and 17th meant he had to settle for 67, and heads into round four on par.

Bryson DeChambeau said his swing fix "came to him" in a dream after the U.S. Open champion kept his title defence alive.

DeChambeau opened his bid for back-to-back U.S. Open trophies with a 73 but the big-hitting American responded by posting a two-under-par 69 on Friday.

An eagle, four birdies and four bogeys saw DeChambeau surge 47 positions on day two, moving within five shots of co-leaders Richard Bland and Russell Henley at Torrey Pines.

Reflecting on his bounce-back display heading into the weekend, DeChambeau credited a late-night tweak.

"I was sleeping and it came to me in the middle of the night," DeChambeau told reporters.

"Woke up and I was like, hmm, I'm going to try this, and my intuition is pretty good, so I went out and tried it and it worked, just keeping the right wrist bent for a lot longer through impact."

"It's more just my intuition telling me there's something weird here, what's going on, and I couldn't figure it out for an hour and a half last night, an hour last night," said DeChambeau said. "Going back and just sitting down, eating dinner and just thinking about it, thinking about it, I literally won't talk to anybody for like an hour, just thinking, thinking, thinking, and sure enough, I went to bed and I found a little something that worked for my driver."

DeChambeau added: "I feel like if I can clean up my iron play and get a little more comfortable with the irons and the drivers, I'll have a good chance for this weekend."

He is tied for 13th alongside the likes of rival Brooks Koepka (73), Justin Thomas (69) and Collin Morikawa (67).

Amid their ongoing feud, DeChambeau and two-time U.S. Open champion Koepka narrowly avoided being paired together for Saturday's penultimate round.

Koepka – eyeing a fifth major crown – lost ground on the leaders after mixing five bogeys and just three birdies but he told reporters: "I feel right there. I feel like I'm in it. Just need to put two solid good rounds and put the ball in the fairway, and that's it. I love the way I'm putting. I love the way I'm striking it. Just need to keep doing it."

Four-time major winner and former world number one Rory McIlroy is a stroke further back following his second-round 73.

"A bit of a rollercoaster, got off to a good start," McIlroy said. "Made a couple of birdies early on and was under par for the round. Then I made a couple of mental errors and missed it in the wrong spots, and when you do that around this golf course, it's just really hard to see a par.

"I made a few bogeys, but birdieing two of the last four holes definitely makes me feel better about the round and gives me a nice bit of momentum going into tomorrow…So, yeah, in for the weekend and still feel like I've got a really good chance."

US PGA Championship winner Phil Mickelson also feels he can "make a run at it" after avoiding the cut on Friday.

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