Rory McIlroy and Bryson DeChambeau attacked as Richard Bland’s challenge wore off, with a tight third round of the US Open setting the stage for a thrilling final day at Torrey Pines.
Louis Oosthuizen landed an incredible 50-foot eagle putt on the 18th to take a share of the lead with Russell Henley and Mackenzie Hughes five under.
McIlroy, champion in 2011, hit a 67 under four and is two backstroke, with defending champion DeChambeau (68).
Bland allowed a 77 to finish on one.
The 48-year-old Englishman – who won his first European Tour title in his 478th event in May – had shared an unlikely overnight lead with Henley entering the third round at just his second US Open.
Few would want to predict a winner before the final round, with 20 players sitting within five shots of the leaders after Saturday.
McIlroy celebrates inaugural US Open title in style
Exactly 10 years to the day after McIlroy’s first major victory at the 2011 US Open, at just 22, the Northern Irishman has rolled back the years as he gained momentum.
He pulled a shot on the 10th, before back-to-back birdies on the 12th and 13th propelled him higher in the standings.
McIlroy backed off slightly after a capricious drive into a danger that led to a bogey on the 15th, but he rallied to birdie at the 18th par-five and got himself firmly into the mix.
“It’s the best I’ve played all week,” he told Sky Sports. “I have remained very patient and I have the impression that this patience has paid off in the last nine. “
McIlroy added that another US Open title “would mean a lot” to him, saying he was “so happy” to have given himself another chance.
“It’s been a long time since I had the chance to win a major championship before Sunday,” he continued.
“It won’t be as easy as it was 10 years ago, but my game is good and I will try to do the same again. “
Earlier, Ian Poulter reminded European Ryder Cup captain Padraig Harrington that he’s still here with a score under 68 to end the day on the same level.
Englishman Paul Casey is also tied after a birdie in the 18th which finished an excellent 67.
DeChambeau thrives as Koepka falters.
Bland, 48, said he wanted to take on the ‘gym goers’ over the weekend, but it was those athletic, younger players who made the moves as Saturday rolled around.
DeChambeau made the most impressive move, posting his first bogeyless lap in a major as his ‘bomb and gouge’ approach helped him achieve three birdies.
This is the first time the 27-year-old has had a bogey-less turn in a major and the birdies on the first, sixth and 13th left him perilously looming in fourth.
DeChambeau had an ongoing row with two-time US Open winner Brooks Koepka on social media and said he “looked forward to” them playing together.
“You have guys coming and going from both sides saying ‘Team Bryson’, ‘No, no, no, Team Brooks’. It’s really cool, I think it’s fun, ”DeChambeau said of the alleged feud between the two.
“I would like us to be twinned,” he added. “Give the fans what they want. I think that would be great. We both have to play well at the same time and I look forward to this day. “
Koepka struggled to shake things up on Saturday and he mixed three birdies with three bogeys to end the day as he started at normal level.
Henley held a two-stroke lead at one point, but bogeyys in the second, sixth and 10th kept him within sight of the field.
The American’s day went much better than Bland’s as the Englishman struggled with his approach shots in a bogey demonstration that culminated with an unfortunate water trip on the 18th.
But Henley managed to stay in the lead, where he had been all day, as he recovered the par after visiting two bunkers on his way down the last hole.
He was joined late in the lead by 2010 Open champion Oosthuizenm who suddenly and unexpectedly rose to the top of the standings after his impressive eagle putt ended an otherwise mixed round of three birdies and four bogeys.
Canadian Hughes – who has failed to qualify in his previous three US Open appearances – also won an eagle in his 68-under-three.
The 30-year-old’s effort on the 13th placed him tied for second before climbing to first with a birdie on the 18th.
In a chase pack filled with potential winners, world number one Dustin Johnson sits four behind after a 68, while Spaniard Jon Rahm recovered from a double bogey on the 14th to post a 72 and finish at two cents.