2022 U.S. Open: What to watch for during final round at The Country Club originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston
BROOKLINE, Mass. -- The stage is set for a fantastic finish to the 2022 U.S. Open at The Country Club.
Saturday's third round was difficult for many golfers as the less-than-ideal weather conditions made an already challenging course even tougher to navigate. Only seven golfers shot under par on the day.
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Will Zalatoris and Matt Fitzpatrick are the co-leaders at 4-under par, and they'll tee off in the final pairing at 2:45 p.m. ET. Their lead is by no means safe. There are eight players within four strokes or fewer of the lead. Four of those eight guys have won at least one major championship.
Here are the key storylines to watch Sunday with a U.S. Open title at stake.
Local favorite in contention
Keegan Bradley, who was born in Vermont and went to high school in Hopkinton, Mass., is just two strokes back of the lead. He shot 1-under par Saturday to finish at 2-under through 54 holes.
It's going to be an emotional Sunday for Bradley as he tries to win his second career major championship on a hometown course in front of family and friends.
"Well, (Sunday) is going to be a tough day. I know that. It just is. It would be if I was playing in Tulsa," Bradley said. "But playing here, it's going to be intense, but I've had this weird sense of calm over me this week.
U.S. & World
"I don't know if that will be here tomorrow or not, but I just have to try to just put one foot in front of the other. Honestly, that's all the silly cliches we all say. I'm playing really well, and I really feel comfortable on this course."
The crowd at The Country Club gave him a roaring ovation and chanted "Keegan! Keegan! Keegan!" as he walked up the 18th fairway Saturday. Bradley is hoping for a similar scene Sunday. A victory for him would be one of the best Boston sports stories since 2000, which is really saying something given the success of the Patriots, Red Sox, Celtics and Bruins over that span.
Jon Rahm is aiming for history Sunday. Only two players have won back-to-back U.S. Open titles since 1951. They are Curtis Strange (1988 and 1989) and Brooks Koepka (2017 and 2018). Rahm can join them with a victory at The Country Club -- where Strange won the first of his consecutive U.S. Open crowns in 1988.
Rahm was the sole leader at 5-under par entering the 18th hole Saturday, but he double-bogeyed after having difficulty in the bunkers. He finished at 3-under par through 54 holes -- one stroke behind the leaders.
Despite the tough finish, Rahm was pleased overall with his performance Saturday given the conditions.
"I'm very content. I'm not going to lie," Rahm said. "It's infuriating in a sense to finish that way with how good I played those holes, but like I kept telling myself, if on the 14th you tell me you can post 1-over par and not play the last five holes, I would have ran to the clubhouse because of how difficult it was playing. I would have taken it, no questions asked. I think I have to consider that. I have 18 holes, and I'm only one shot back. That's the important thing."
Two majors in 2022?
It looked like Scottie Scheffler was going to separate himself from the rest of the field Saturday when he eagled on the 8th hole to move to 6-under par, giving him a two-stroke lead.
But instead of creating further distance, Scheffler ran into plenty of trouble. The back nine was a huge struggle as he double-bogeyed the 11th hole and then bogeyed each of the next three. He got a stroke back with a birdie on No. 17, but the damage had been done. Scheffler is at 2-under par and two strokes behind the leaders. He's very much in the mix despite shooting 1-over Saturday.
"I reminded myself on 11, 12, 13, 14, I just kept reminding myself I'm still in the golf tournament," Scheffler said. "I made the double on 11, and I kind of just -- when I walked off that one, I was, like, dude, just pretend you bogeyed 10 and birdied 8. It's not a big deal. After the bogey on 12, it's not a big deal. I'm still maybe 1-under for the round. Then after 13 I just kept trying to pretend that what was happening wasn't happening. Eventually I was able to steady the ship.
"For me that stuff is going to happen at U.S. Opens. The golf course is just hard. The conditions are hard. The scores are high. All I was going to do is just try and hang in there. That was my only goal. Just kind of hang and keep myself in position. That's why I was so excited with the par on 18 because that was a big momentum putt for me."
If Scheffler wins, he'll join Tiger Woods (2002) and Jordan Spieth (2015) as the only golfers since Jack Nicklaus in 1972 to win the Masters and U.S. Open in the same year.
A familiar scene at The Country Club
Matt Fitzpatrick knows what it's like to win a high-profile tournament at The Country Club. He won the 2013 U.S. Amateur at this course. He's tied for the lead with Will Zalatoris at 4-under par.
Fitzpatrick has never won a major, but he does believe his 2013 triumph in Brookline will help him Sunday.
"I certainly think it gives me an edge over the others, yeah," Fitzpatrick admitted. "I genuinely do believe that. It's a real, obviously, positive moment in my career. It kind of kickstarted me. To come back here and play so well again, it kind of just gives me growing confidence round by round."
Still in the mix
Rory McIlroy entered the third round at 4-under par, but he fell three strokes back after a lackluster performance Saturday that included four bogeys. Despite the 3-over score, he is still within striking distance three shots behind the leaders.
"It was one of the toughest days on a golf course I've had in a long time," McIlroy said. "I just needed to grind it out, and I did on the back nine. You know, to play that back nine at even par today was a really good effort, I thought.
"Just kept myself in the tournament. That's all I was trying to do. Just keep hanging around. I felt like I did well to get it in under par for the tournament at the end of the day."
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