If, come Sunday evening, you’re crowing about picking the winner of the U.S. Open before the second major of the season even began at Erin Hills, be prepared to back up that claim with unquestionable proof.
The doubters will be plenty as many were scratching their heads after Saturday’s third round. There was no doubt what they had just seen, just confusion about how it will all play out in Sunday’s finale of a U.S. Open that just isn’t following the traditional script.
With five players in double digits below par and 42 overall below par, expect the USGA to pull out all stops in course set-up on Sunday, but will Mother Nature cooperate with such tactics?
Rain was expected overnight at Erin Hills, softening it even more, with partly cloudy conditions expected on Sunday with the possibility of a shower or thunderstorm. With a cooler temperature and the wind picking up, it remains to be seen how weather will affect the outcome.
It also remains to be seen if there is another record-setting performance in the field on Sunday.
In hindsight, if anybody was going to set a U.S. Open record in relation to par, it would be Justin Thomas, who set a 72-hole PGA Tour record for lowest scoring in winning the Sony Open in Hawaii earlier this year, his second consecutive victory in as many weeks.
Opening with a 59 is a good way to start off a record-setting performance as Thomas did at the Sony, so you know he’s capable of going low, especially when conditions are favourable.
So it was on Saturday, when he put nine birdies, an eagle and two bogeys in posting his record nine-under 63 that left him just one shot behind leader Brian Harman, who finished the day with a five-under 67.
Particularly impressive was Thomas using a three-wood to drive the green on the 288-yard, par four 15th and then using it twice on the 667-yard, par five 18th, which he eagled.
“I felt like I’ve been playing pretty well all week, and didn’t have quite the numbers to show for it. Obviously, today I definitely had something to show for it,” said Thomas, who is 13th in the world rankings and, with so many marquee names missing the cut, seems a logical choice to win.
Yet, Harman, ranked 50th in the world, may not have been as spectacular as Thomas on Saturday, but was solid with a 67 of his own. The same applies to the two guys Thomas is tied for second with, Brooks Koepka and Tommy Fleetwood, as well as the lurking Rickie Fowler and Si Woo Kim, all of which shot 68s on Saturday.
Nine players are within four shots of the lead and the way low scores have been coming this week, who’s to say the eventual winner won’t come from farther back than that?
Canadian Adam Hadwin was out of striking range as of Saturday evening after shooting a 75 that left him tied for 47th at one over.
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Toronto’s Albin Choi shot a third round, one-over 71 and is tied for 53rd at Air Capital Classic in Wichita, Ks.
Choi is at four under.
That leaderboard is here.
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Derek Gillespie of Oshawa, Ont, shot a second round, 69 and even par through seven holes of his third round when play was called due to darkness Saturday at the BMW Jamaica Classic in Montego Bay.
Gillespie is tied for 16th at seven under.
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