At one time seven players were tied for the lead at seven-under and then again at eight-under with nobody able to gain separation until Thomas ripped a mighty three-wood second shot and then drained his eight-foot eagle putt at 18 sparking thundering roars from the massive gallery.
Fleetwood had been tied for the lead after birdies on the first, eighth, 12th, 14th and 15th, only to bogey the last after following up a poor pitch by putting his birdie attempt off the green. He didn't make a birdie the rest of the way and had to settle for a 70. Brian Harman, whose 5-under 67 propelled him to a 12-under 204 total.
Four players began the day in a share of the lead and that number increased to seven by the time the leaders teed off, with Fowler, Patrick Reed and Charley Hoffman all getting to seven under. Fowler shot a 73 and was still very much in the hunt at a second straight major.
Harman is not the only former Georgia men's golfer in the field at the U.S. Open. Even that looks like an arduous task in part because of the massive scrum near the top of the leaderboard and in part because the length of the course doesn't lend itself to a ton of birdie opportunities for players such as Stricker, Jim Furyk and Zach Johnson who rely on precision more than distance.
"(Yesterday) was an off-day", Spieth said after a round littered with four bogeys and a double bogey on 18 in which his chip out of a greenside bunker hit the lip and rolled back to his feet. Throughout Saturday's third round at Erin Hills, players took aim at reachable greens to set up eagle opportunities.
At times, it seems like Stricker is playing a different course than the young guns who routinely carry their drives 300-plus yards. The USGA is providing complimentary bottled water the rest of the week.
The 24-year-old Louisville native is not new to success. That 79 finish was my most disappointing round in golf.
"If somebody does it tomorrow [Sunday] to win the U.S. Open by one, that's the specialness of my round". Or that Johnson and McIlory went home Friday after missing the cut?
Then he had a run of three birdies.
"I feel like once the cannon gets open I'll start pouring them in", Spieth said. "I couldn't possibly shoot any higher than I did".
"But I'm confident that I am prepared for whatever happens", he added, "whether something bad happens or something good happens - I'll just rely on that confidence".
Tommy Fleetwood will try to block out thoughts of the "life-changing" effect of becoming the second English victor in five years in Sunday's final round of the US Open. McIlroy came to life when it was far too late.
Joining them with a weekend off - British Open champion Henrik Stenson, Alex Noren, Jon Rahm, Justin Rose and Adam Scott.
Just don't mention that to some of the best players in the world. Although he remains well behind the tightly bunched leaderboard, he gave himself a chance to at least be in the conversation today at 2-under for the tournament, but had he not bogeyed 18 this might have been an even more joyous afternoon for him and for Wisconsin golf fans. He went from pouring putts into the center of the cup to burning the edges, and his 39 on the back nine cost him the lead, though not his chances of breaking through for that first major.