Jon Rahm goes for back-to-back U.S. Open victories Sunday at The Country Club, and he will have to contend with difficult scoring conditions for the second day in a row to become the eighth man to earn consecutive national titles.
Rahm trails a couple of guys who thus far have not been initiated to the majors club, though Will Zalatoris and Matt Fitzpatrick, who share the lead at 4-under-par 206, have big USGA victories under their respective belts. Fitzpatrick won the 2013 U.S. Amateur and Zalatoris captured the 2014 U.S. Junior Amateur.
Round 3 on Saturday was a rough one, as gusting northwest winds chilled the air as well as players’ ability to stay in red figures. When the day began, 23 contestants were sporting sub-par aggregate totals. When the last putt of the day dropped, there were only nine men under par.
The weather forecast for the final round indicates that challenges similar to Saturday await the 64 players who made the cut, though it is expected to be colder, with temperatures barely reaching the 60s. You’d have to think that scores barely dipping into the 60s will be hard-earned … and rare.
Here are 3 Things to Know heading into Round 4:
He has yet to win on the PGA Tour, but Will Zalatoris, 25, has made a name for himself nonetheless by playing his best golf in major championships. This week is no exception as he climbed into a share of the lead on Saturday with a sterling 3-under 67, one of just seven sub-par rounds.
The San Francisco native, who was a member of the 2017 Walker Cup Team alongside the likes of two-time major winner Collin Morikawa, has played in just eight majors before this week, and he’s posted five top-10 finishes – the first player since Ernie Els, a two-time U.S. Open winner, to do that. His resume includes runner-up finishes in his Masters debut in 2021 and in last month’s PGA Championship when he lost to Justin Thomas in a playoff.
Will just has a way when it comes to big events, and he’s showing it again at The Country Club.
“I think especially coming off the PGA, it gave me a lot of belief and confidence that I belong in this situation,” he said. “I've put myself in this situation a few times in my career, and obviously have to go out and get it tomorrow.”
If 72 holes isn’t enough championship golf to sate your appetite, you might be in luck. The Country Club has been the site for the U.S. Open on three previous occasions, and all three had to be decided in overtime.
All three featured heavyweights of their respective eras, starting, of course, with amateur Francis Ouimet stunning the accomplished British duo of Harry Vardon and Ted Ray in 1913. Fifty years later Arnold Palmer lost an 18-hole playoff for the second year in a row, this one to Julius Boros. Jacky Cupit also was part of that playoff. Finally, Curtis Strange outdueled England’s Nick Faldo in the 1988 championship.
Given that the stacked leader board features a whopping 16 players separated by just five shots, the likelihood of an outright winner appears slim. But while the previous playoffs were 18-hole affairs, a tie after 72 holes this year would force a two-hole aggregate playoff. Should players be tied after two holes, the title would be decided in sudden-death fashion.
It’s not often you have the chance to share golf history with Jack Nicklaus, but Matt Fitzpatrick can do that with a victory Sunday.
Nicklaus, who won a record-tying four U.S. Open titles among eight wins in USGA events, is the only man in history to win a U.S. Amateur and U.S. Open on the same course. The Golden Bear captured his second U.S. Amateur title in 1961 at Pebble Beach Golf Links, and 11 years later he won his third U.S. Open on the famed seaside course.
Now here comes Fitzpatrick, who completed the first half of the trick in 2013 when he claimed the U.S. Amateur at The Country Club. He’s been in and around the lead all week in his return, and he’s in fine shape after a 68 gave him a share of the 54-hole lead. He believes his past success here could be the difference.
“I certainly think it gives me an edge over the others,” said the 27-year-old Englishman. “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 just gives me growing confidence round by round.”
Dave Shedloski is an Ohio-based writer who frequently contributes to USGA websites.