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ICYMI at The Open: Pettersen makes his mark

Royal Birkdale assistant professional Gregg Pettersen, left, played as South African Shaun Norris' marker in the first game of Round 3 at The Open. Warren Little/R&A/R&A via Getty Images

SOUTHPORT, England -- Royal Birkdale Golf Club's assistant professional Gregg Pettersen received the call at 10 o'clock Friday night: "Do you want to play in The Open?" OK, in truth he was only marking for South Africa's Shaun Norris, but the galleries were for real and so were the major championship green speeds.

"I did have lots of three-putts," he admitted. "I'm not used to the pace of Open greens. I had a lot of 8- to 10-footers coming back for par. The highlight was the first tee."

He estimated that he shot 5 over par in contrast to Norris' bogey-free 5-under 65, but the numbers didn't matter to him. "Just an amazing experience," Pettersen said. "A bit surreal."


Southgate's special spectator

England's Matthew Southgate has regularly been followed down the fairways by his family at his three Open appearances, but there was a very special member of the gallery on Saturday -- his 4-year-old niece Hattie, who has spent two years of her young life fighting leukemia.

Currently in remission, this was the first time she has supported her Uncle Matt on the golf course. When he spotted her sitting in the grass near the 13th green, the emotion hit him.

"When I saw her little face, I just went," he said after a third-round 3-under-par 67. "There were quite a few tears. My caddie had to just remind me to keep my mind on the golf. Now I can't wait to spend the afternoon with her and the rest of the family, relaxing and enjoying the Open atmosphere."


Dufner's surprise giveaway

Right place, right time. Tommy here was standing under the player bridge at Royal Birkdale right when Jason Dufner decided it was time to get rid of his golf shoes. Will you wear them? "They seem to be the right size... yeah!"

Michael Collins, ESPN Senior Writer


In case you just missed it, like Rickie Fowler

Saturday-morning news of a forward tee box on the 5th raised many eyebrows across the course; the prospect of the players gunning for eagle there offered hopes of big early moves on the leaderboard.

The hole had played 44 yards longer in Round 2, but with the strong wind behind, some players had still opted to attack the green from the tee. In fact, when Austin Connelly's group had been putting out for par, a drive landed less than 20 feet from the hole on the fly (that also raised a few eyebrows).

On Saturday, going for it became the rule rather than the exception and no one took greater advantage than Rickie Fowler. His tee shot appeared destined to drop in the hole at dead weight for a hole-in-one when it drifted wide over the last few inches of its journey. "Got a bad read," quipped Fowler later.

For the third round, the hole averaged 3.594 with 29 birdies and four eagles made by the 77 players who made the cut.


Fleetwood finds his feet on home soil

This week has been special for Southport's Tommy Fleetwood, even if Thursday's 76 ruined any hopes of his contending for the Claret Jug in front of his adoring home galleries.

The 26-year-old has cut an impressively mature figure in 2017, newly engaged, ready to become a father and thriving on excellent form. It's therefore no surprise that he has refused to let disappointment overwhelm his week.

"It would have been pretty rubbish staying home for the weekend," he admitted, before placing the setback in perspective. "It's the first cut I've made at The Open in four attempts, and it's been amazing getting clapped on to every green and every tee by people that I know. Four days of it is a lot better than two."

Polite as always -- one reason why he's so popular -- he couldn't help but be blown away, not by the wind and rain of late Friday, but the determination of his fans to withstand it.

"There were a lot of people walking around last night when they shouldn't have been," he laughed. "It was pitch-black, cold and wet. I can't thank them enough."

Nor did he regret the attention he received and the related pressure, adding: "You can switch it around if you want. Nobody expected me to do anything and nobody was talking to me at Royal Troon. Which one do you prefer?"