54-hole co-leader Mackenzie Hughes and caddie, Jace Walker, ready for U.S. Open final round

Mackenzie Hughes lines up a putt on the fourth green with caddie Jace Walker during the third round of the U.S. Open. Credit: Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

Saturday at the U.S. Open saw some exciting moments throughout, and Mackenzie Hughes shot a 3-under 68 punctuated with the eagle putt from the back of the 13th green (like Tiger in 2008’s third round) to vault into today’s final group at 5 under.

Hughes shares the 54-hole lead at Torrey Pines with Louis Oosthuizen and Russell Henley — two shots clear of Rory McIlroy and defending champ Bryson DeChambeau.

“That eagle putt on 13 was kind of the big boost that got us fired up,” Hughes’ caddie, Jace Walker said. “When those moments happen it almost feels like you’re playing again (Walker played professionally for a few years). You’re so into the moment, you’re so into the putt, you just want him to do well. How loud the crowd was, it gives you chills when stuff like that happens. He hit a great putt and it was pretty electric out there when that thing went in.”

Walker had a great time in the third round U.S. Open atmosphere all day, and he was happy with his player’s consistent play.

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“It was amazing out there (Saturday), it was probably one of the funnest days I’ve had caddying,” Walker said. “He played obviously amazing and he’s got a chance to win the U.S. Open, so it’s kind of exciting. I like how he handled himself, like nothing bothered him. He just stayed very composed and confident the whole day.”

Today’s final round and final grouping will be the biggest moment of Hughes and Walker’s careers without a doubt, and Walker is excited for the challenge it will bring.

“Yeah, I’m very excited, and Mackenzie’s confident right now, he’s swinging it so well that I can’t wait to get to the first tee,” Walker said. “I wish we could just keep playing. I know he’s going to bring that same attitude and that confidence and we’ll see what we can do.”

So how does his player seem with the situation ahead of him today?

“He’s confident, he’s more comfortable trying to win a tournament than trying to make a cut,” Walker said. “The closer he is to the lead, the better he is. Some guys are the opposite. But I’ve known Mackenzie 15 years and in the biggest moments he actually gets better, so I’m looking forward to it.”

Hughes and Walker will be in the final pairing with major champion Oosthuizen, and Walker likes that position for his player.

“We’d rather be there than anywhere else. It’s nice. We’ll get to all of the shots in front of us. It’s obviously where you want to be, and I think Mackenize would say the same thing,” Walker said.

Walker knows Hughes has missed his last five cuts, but says he’s dedicated with his swing coach Ralph Bauer to hitting his natural fade again.

Walker looks forward to having breakfast with mentor Brennan Little (Gary Woodland’s caddie) who understands what it’s like to be in a final U.S. Open pairing.

Walker also talked with his dad, Doug, last night by phone just to talk through what he’s about to get into.

A big moment ahead for Hughes and Walker.

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