Well, no one can say we don’t have ourselves a proper U.S. Open. And you know what you get with that? A proper U.S. Open winner.
Four men are tied for the lead with 18 holes remaining in the 118th edition of this championship, tying a record. A hefty 29 players are just six shots apart at the top. Quite the logjam. There is no doubt about it, Sunday’s final round should provide an abundance of intrigue.
The four players who share the spotlight after 54 holes are Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka, Daniel Berger and Tony Finau. Each is playing for a little slice of history as well as for the U.S. Open Trophy.
Johnson, who has had at least a share of the lead after each round, is trying to become the 22nd player to win multiple U.S. Open titles. So is his good friend Brooks Koepka, the defending champion, who could become just the seventh man to win back-to-back.
Meanwhile Finau and Berger, who began Saturday tied for 45th place, 11 shots behind Johnson, would tie Lou Graham for the biggest comeback after 36 holes in U.S. Open history. Graham trailed by 11 after two rounds in 1975 only to catch John Mahaffey at the tape and then win the next day in an 18-hole playoff.
Plenty of other plots and subplots, including Patrick Reed, the Masters champion, trailing by three strokes in his bid to win the second leg of the Grand Slam.
Here are five of the many things to watch for today:
1. Patience. As much as good ball-striking and a steady putting stroke, the player who can keep his head when all about are losing theirs is going to be a hard man to beat. It’s not only about handling a difficult examination, it’s also handling the pressure of trying to win America’s top title. Equanimity is a mighty strong weapon on a U.S. Open Sunday.
2. Dustin Johnson. Speaking of equanimity, the 2016 U.S. Open winner endured a rough Saturday at Shinnecock, watching a four-stroke lead vanish quickly. But he hung in there and never complained about his travails. His ability to shake off adversity could come to the fore again on Sunday.
3. Amateur hour. What a race for low amateur has unfolded with 18 holes remaining. Firefighter Matt Parziale, the U.S. Mid-Amateur champion, is 11 over par after a 74 Saturday, one stroke ahead of LSU golfer Luis Gagne, who posted a 75. Will Grimmer, the Ohio State golfer, is at 13 over after shooting a third-round 78. The amateurs have acquitted themselves splendidly on a difficult layout. One will take home a medal, but all three should be proud of their efforts.
4. Route 66 duo. Having drawn successfully to an inside straight, to borrow some poker parlance, Berger and Finau have a chance at a huge jackpot today. But those handsome scores came in a relatively pressure-free environment. Can they provide an encore in the spotlight of today’s final pairing? We shall find out.
5. Clubhouse leader. We saw on Saturday the value of posting a score early with Berger and Finau. Could someone a few strokes down the leader board get it to the house with a score that holds up? We saw it with Webb Simpson in 2012 at Olympic and Geoff Ogilvy in 2006 at Winged Foot. An early finisher might be the top finisher.
Dave Shedloski is an Ohio-based freelance writer who frequently contributes to USGA websites.