Notes on the 3rd day of the 2015 US Open at Chambers Bay. Four players are tied at the top at four under and four hang in the wings at -1.
Yesterday, in the third round of competition at the 2015 US Open National Championship four players emerged as the 54 hole leader(s) in the field.
But, before we talk about them, let’s talk about a couple others. Phil Mickelson started out the day at +3 and ended up +10 at the end of the day. So, he’s out. Sad. Partick Reed dropped off the radar with a 76 yesterday after being in the lead after two rounds. He squandered a share of the lead and fell back into the mix of 6 other players at +1. So, can he comeback? Can he hold his finger up to his lips after today’s round and re-declare himself capable of being the #1 player in the field? I think not.
Louis Oosthuizen, however, could be the come-back kid of the tourney. Oosthuizen was seven over on Thursday in his first round. On Friday, he came back with a 66 and did a repeat with another 66 on Saturday to end up at -1. If he goes back out and shoots well again, he could be in contention for the trophy. During his post round interview yesterday, he mentioned the value of grinding it out during a tournament. Oosthuizen said, basically, that when you have a bad round, it’s important to keep going and not give up. He said it’s a good time to try things out and just keep going (sort of like turning a real round into a practice round). “You can use it as an opportunity to work on your game for the next week’s competition,” said the eleven time US Open participant and 2010 British Open champion. He went on to say that, “It’s important to grind it out during a tournament, because you never know how it will turn out.” His play on Friday and Saturday, moved him up the board by 8 strokes. His comments about sticking-to-it is a good philosophy for junior players. Often, a young person will give up during a round, or a tournament, because they think they don’t have a chance to win, or post a good score. They need to learn in the game, and in life, the importance of grinding it out. You never know what will happen. At 5’10 and 180 lbs., he is one of the smallest players on tour, but he is, consistently, referred to as one of the players that can go after it and hit the ball long and straight. If he can repeat his previous two performances out there today, he’ll be in the mix.
The Four Tops
Four players, Jason Day, Dustin Johnson, Brandon Grace and Jordan Spieth, ended-up tied for the lead at -4. Even though they will be playing in two groups, they are the “final four.” Technically, according to golf protocol, it’s “first in-last out,” which dictates the final pairing, but what the hell, this is a special and unique situation. I consider them all equally “best” for today’s round. Jordan Spieth and Branden Grace will tee off at 2:48 PT, and Dustin Johnson and Jason Day will follow at 3:00 PT
Jordan Spieth, if he wins, will be the first Masters champion to win the U.S. Open in the same year since Tiger Woods in 2002. He could become the youngest champion of the U.S. Open since Bob Jones in 1923, and the youngest to win two career majors since Gene Sarazen in 1922. After his round, that included 4 birdies and 5 bogies, Spieth said, “The bogeys could have easily been pars, and a lot of the pars could have been birdies.” He went on to say the greens were faster in the afternoon than in the morning when he played before. “Now that I know that, I can adjust for it. Actually, I really like the fast greens,” he added. When he was asked about the conditions of the greens that are the main focal point of complaints by the players during the tournament he said, “It’s tricky because of the gravel-poa annua-fescue, whatever it is, on these greens that are drying up. They putt a little different on those shorter putts.” Well, it is a former gravel pit. Spieth has the game, and the experience of winning a major under his belt, and is easily capable of winning.
Dustin Johnson felt he played well in the third round. This is the second time Dustin Johnson has held a 54-hole lead in the U.S. Open. He led by 3 strokes in 2010 at Pebble Beach, but shot a final round 82 to finish tied for eighth. It is the 4th time he has played in the final group in a major. At thirty years old, Johnson is considered in the realm of a golfer’s prime, yet he’s only been on The Tour for seven years. His ability to get the job done is evidenced by his 9 PGA Tour, and 2 European Tour victories. Yesterday was the first time he’s hit all the fairways in a round. Always humble in his outlook toward his game, he told the media, “If I can continue that on Sunday, and keep getting a look at some birdies, I think I’ll do alright.” His consistency and long drives, allowing for shorter irons into the green will be his “winning factor” in today’s final round.
Brandon Grace shot even par for the round yesterday with a birdie putt on #15 that put him in the mix of the leaders. A four time winner on the European Tour, Grace has yet to win on the PGA Tour, and has never been in the top 10. His European wins aside, he is the Cinderella factor of this year’s tournament.
Jason Day will be playing in the final group of a major championship for the first time. Jason Day is the “iffy” player this week. Not iffy with his game, iffy with his health. His battle with benign positional vertigo has had him falling down on #9 and nauseous through most of the round on Saturday. On 18 yesterday, he hit his drive and suffered dizziness as he followed the ball with his eyes. He looked down and shook his head and then looked back up. Making the putt for par on 18 put him 4 under over the last 7 holes and a share of the lead. After making the putt, he wiped his eye, blinked, and waved to the crowd in response to the standing ovation.
With his 68, he is the only player in the field to shoot 2 under on the day. We’ve often heard the saying, “Beware of the sick golfer.” What they mean by that is because of the extra problem, a golfer may focus more on just one shot at a time, play more on instinct, and end up having a good round just because of the extra focus on the shot rather than other things that can easily distract a healthy player. Jason has the game, and if he can make it through the day, he has a “healthy” chance at winning.
Today will be a test of who can grind it out under the most difficult circumstances a golf course can provide. From yardage, to layout, to pin placement, to the condition of the putting surface, all involved will be playing on the same turf . One winner will emerge and be able to say they are the best–the winner of our country’s national championship–the U.S. Open.