“It was a tale of two golf courses, and no doubt, we would admit, well-executed shots were not only not regarded, but were punished,” said Mike Davis, the chief executive of the USGA and the man in charge of course setup. “We would say that it was a very tough test, and really too tough this afternoon.”

Here’s how tough: Among those in the final six groups to tee off, the average score was 76.6. Those were, supposedly, the best golfers in the field through two rounds.

“Nobody enjoys that,” said Russell Knox, who shot 75, two shots better than Dustin Johnson, who blew a four-shot lead to fall into a four-way tie at the top. “I think they misjudged the strength of the wind. I don’t think it crossed the line, but it was as hard of golf as we can play.”

At the last U.S. Open here, Shinnecock Hills gained notoriety for slick greens that had to be watered between groups. The seventh hole became so unmanageable that some likened it to putting on linoleum.

“I’d say it’s a little bit over the line,” Henrik Stenson said after shooting a 74 despite being “pretty happy with the way I played.”

Added defending champion Brooks Koepka, the fourth player in the first-place tie: “Let’s put it this way. If they’d have shot 4-under, it would probably have been the best round of golf anybody’s ever seen.”

The course was slowed down for the final round.

That process began on some holes even before Johnson bogeyed No. 18 to fall into that four-way tie at 3 over par.

AP Golf Writer Doug Ferguson, AP Sports Columnist Tim Dahlberg and Sports Writer Jimmy Golen contributed to this report.