Controversy continues at Shinnecock Hills as USGA promises to slow down course

North: Shinnecock Hills 'just about impossible' (2:08)

Andy North calls the U.S. Open course at Shinnecock Hills "unfair," breaking down the players' frustrations and solutions for the final round. (2:08)

SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y. -- One of America's oldest and most respected courses, Shinnecock Hills also has seen its share of controversy when the U.S. Open is staged on the Long Island venue.

Saturday's third round offered more fodder.

Dustin Johnson, cruising through two rounds with a 4-shot advantage, shot a 7-over 77 and still holds a share of the 54-hole lead with defending champion Brooks Koepka, Daniel Berger and Tony Finau.

Berger and Finau shot 66 early in the day, having teed off five hours prior to the leaders.

Phil Mickelson hit a moving ball on a green and was penalized 2 strokes, shooting 81 to match his highest score in a U.S. Open.

Zach Johnson said early in the afternoon that the United States Golf Association "lost the golf course."

Rickie Fowler shot 84.

And there was plenty of more grumbling.

"It was not a fair test of golf," Spain's Rafa Cabrera-Bello posted on Twitter after shooting 76. "Greens were unplayable, with unnecessary pin positions. [The] USGA found a way to make us look like fools on the course. A pity they managed to destroy a beautiful golf course."

Added Ian Poulter on Twitter:

USGA officials agreed, with executive director Mike Davis later admitting the setup was too tough and promising to slow the course down overnight.

The USGA issued a statement Sunday morning saying that greens had been watered overnight and in the morning, making green speeds "on average, 10-12 inches slower than rounds 2 and 3." Pin placements were also more in line with the first round.

For the first time since 2007, no one is under par through 54 holes at the U.S. Open. Berger, Finau, Koepka and Johnson are 3 over at 213. There were just three scores under par Saturday: In addition to Berger and Finau, Thailand's Kiradech Aphibarnrat shot 68. There were eight rounds in the 80s, and the scoring average was 75.087.

"We're not on the edge. I thought we could be on the edge, but we've surpassed it," Zach Johnson told Sky Sports after his 72. "It's pretty much gone, especially the latter part of the day for us. It's pretty much shot. It's really unfortunate, because in my opinion, some of the best land and certainly one of the best venues in all of golf, especially in this country, is Shinnecock Hills. It's as good as it gets.

"Unfortunately, they've lost the golf course. I feel for the membership, because I know many of them. I feel for the spectators because they are seeing pure carnage -- unless that's what they want. And I feel for the USGA, because I don't think this was their intent.

"But when you think of things that happened in the past, you have to err on the side of caution. And that wasn't done today."

Shinnecock staged the second U.S. Open in 1896 and has held modern Opens in 1986, 1995 and 2004. It was the site of controversy during the last U.S. Open played here, won by Retief Goosen, as firm greens, dicey pin positions and a lack of water on the greens caused considerable problems during the final round.

It was much of the same Saturday. As the day wore on and the wind picked up, several greens became too fast, with balls that would normally stop near the hole trickling away, and sometimes to great lengths.

"I'm going to answer it diplomatically because I've never seen a golf course change that quickly," said Justin Rose, the 2013 U.S. Open champion who trails the leaders by 1. "I feel like it was on the line, and I think some of the pin placements were over the line. Pin placements, relative to speed and firmness on a couple of occasions, that was the edge. That edge was reached."

Added Henrik Stenson, who shot 74 and is 2 shots back: "I don't think they're interested in listening to my remarks or anyone else's remarks because then we would have seen maybe slightly different pin positions and setup over the years. So it is what it is, and we'll be back out there fighting it tomorrow."

Mickelson, who tied his highest score ever in a U.S. Open with an 81, purposely swatted at a moving ball as he ran after it before it could roll off the green. He would not address whether the course was unfair.

"Look, everybody has to play it; I'm not saying either way," he said. "Everybody has got to play it. I was playing it worse than most and wanted to get to the next hole eventually, which I did."

Mickelson suggested he would not have finished the round if he had to play from where his putt on the 13th green was headed before he hit it while moving.

"I wanted to get to the next hole and I didn't see that happening at that time without the two [penalty] shots," he said.

The 15th green also caused problems based on where the pin position was in the back right. USGA officials agreed that they erred in setting up the course.

"We missed it with the wind," said Davis, who also takes a big role in course setup. "It blew harder than we thought it was going to blow. The greens got fast, and it was too much for the wind we had. At 15, you were seeing shots well-played, and they weren't rewarded. We would say it was a very tough test, but it was too tough this afternoon.

"You saw some really low scores this morning, but when it got so dry like this and the wind got up, it didn't work."

Dustin Johnson seemed to be cruising through two rounds. He was the only player under par and he had a 4-shot advantage. But trouble lurked for the No. 1 player in the world. He doubled-bogeyed the par-3 second and added four more bogeys on the front side to shoot 41.

His only birdie came at the 11th, and he had two more bogeys coming in to shoot 77 and match his second-worst score in 43 U.S. Open rounds.

"I don't feel like I played bad," Johnson said. "With the greens the way they got this afternoon, they were very, very difficult. I felt like I had seven or eight putts that easily could have gone in the hole and didn't. That's the difference between shooting 7 over and even par."

It turned out to be fortuitous for Berger and Finau, who were long gone before some of the worst conditions set in.

"I think to get out there early and play a good round really was to my benefit," said Berger, who spoke to reporters early in the afternoon. "I think it's going to be extremely difficult. I don't even know if the wind is going to be as much of a factor as it is going to be the firmness of the greens.

"Some of these pins are 3 [yards] off the edges, where you hit one by 3 feet past the hole and it's going 40 yards away from the green ... I'm only going to imagine that as the wind picks up and the sun beats down on them, it's just going to get firmer and fast and be more difficult."

As many of his peers would later attest, Berger was right.