One round to go in the 121st U.S. Open at Torrey Pines, and if Round 4 is anything like the previous three, we are in for one entertaining and unpredictable day.
An intriguing leader board will make this Father’s Day – aren’t we all glad to be back to U.S. Open Sunday on Father’s Day? – one of the most anticipated finales of the year in golf, and who knows if there isn’t a curtain call of sorts in the offing. No, there won’t be an 18-hole playoff (though it is possible, we guess), because the format for breaking ties is a two-hole aggregate followed by successive one-holers until someone emerges with the title.
When majors champions, such as Louis Oosthuizen and Collin Morikawa, past U.S. Open champions – namely defending champion Bryson DeChambeau, Rory McIlroy and Dustin Johnson – and up-and-comers Jon Rahm, Scottie Scheffler, Xander Schauffele and Matthew Wolff, all are part of the conversation, well, there is plenty to talk about.
The leaders are the international trio of American Russell Henley, who has held at least a share of the lead each day, South Africa’s Louis Oosthuizen and Canada’s Mackenzie Hughes at 5-under-par 208. Oosthuizen and Hughes have the day’s last tee time on the South Course at 3:55 p.m. EDT.
We would be remiss in not celebrating other competitors who will not win today but will get the chance to enjoy playing in the final round of the National Open, players like Kyle Westmoreland, who after serving in the Air Force is now trying to grind out a career on mini-tours.
And how about Korn Ferry Tour player Greyson Sigg of Augusta, Ga., who has the thrill of playing his fourth round with three-time Masters winner and reigning PGA champion Phil Mickelson. There is 2019 USA Walker Cup Team member and 2018 U.S. Junior Amateur runner-up Akshay Bhatia, now a pro at 19 years old, who birdied his final hole on Friday to make the cut. And, while celebrating 40-somethings this week, how about just a little ink for Wade Ormsby of Australia, 41, the Order of Merit leader on the Asian Tour and Australasia Tour playing in just his second U.S. Open.
So much to savor. So many great storylines of personal triumph. And a trophy to be handed out.
Here are 3 Things to Know for the final round in San Diego:
Hughes in the news
Mackenzie Hughes is 18 holes from his first major title (and second win on the PGA Tour), and just typing that is simply astounding. Hughes, 30, shares the lead at 5 under par with Russell Henley and 2010 British Open champion Louis Oosthuizen, and there was no indication that the Canadian veteran could put himself in this position.
Hughes came into the championship having missed his last five cuts and hadn’t broken par since April at the RBC Heritage. He hadn’t made the cut in his previous three U.S. Open starts, and he had made only two of five cuts playing in the Farmers Insurance Open held at Torrey Pines. One of those missed cuts was just five months ago. But thanks to rounds of 67 and 68 the previous two days, here he is with a chance to become the first Canadian-born U.S. Open champion. His goal today is to keep hitting greens and making putts; he ranks among the top 10 in the field in those categories.
Is Louis due?
Louis Oosthuizen is more due than a rainstorm in the desert.
Oosthuizen finished third in last year’s U.S. Open after working his way into the penultimate twosome, and he hasn’t finished out of the top 25 in the championship since 2014. At Chambers Bay in 2015, Oosthuizen set the record for final 54-hole scoring with a 199 blitz that earned him a share of second place. He already owned the record for most rounds of 67 or better in the championship with eight, and he added to it this week with an opening 67.
The 38-year-old South African is one of eight players to win the silver slam as runner-up in all four majors, a group that includes Mickelson, Johnson, Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Tom Watson, Greg Norman and Craig Wood. Oosthuizen, though, is the only man in that group with just one major title. He added another runner-up finish just last month when he tied for second behind Mickelson at the PGA Championship.
No one is owed a U.S. Open title, but Oosthuizen would be an appropriate winner if he can emerge from that stacked leader board. “There's a lot of great players up there that's got a chance of winning this,” Oosthuizen noted.
Yep. And he is one of them.
The par factor
Tradition holds that in a U.S. Open par is a good score. Guess what? Tradition is holding at Torrey Pines. Trying to find a common denominator that has lifted the leading trio to the top wasn’t easy. Their games don’t have much in common.
What they do have together is a penchant for making par and avoiding big numbers. Among Hughes, Oosthuizen and Henley we find one double bogey, by Hughes in a first-round 73. Hughes has offset that by making only six bogeys, while Henley and Oosthuizen have each made only seven.
The two players directly behind them – Rory McIlroy and defending champion Bryson DeChambeau – are more explosive scorers, which makes them dangerous pursuers. McIlroy has 14 birdies, tied for the lead this week. DeChambeau has 11 birdies and an eagle. Yet they trail by two strokes.
Eighteen pars might just win the U.S. Open today.
Dave Shedloski is an Ohio-based writer who frequently contributes to USGA websites.