History was made on Day 3 at the 2017 U.S. Open.

Golfers made birdies by the bushel, and with nary a major champion within seven strokes of the lead, unless Louis Oosthuizen shoots 59 on Sunday (and that might not be enough), we will have a first-time winner.

1. Today’s JT and his Sixty-Three

My love, what goes around, comes around. I mean, Can’t stop this feeling that Justin Thomas did something special today. He wasn’t wearing a Suit & Tie, and he didn’t make everything, but he won’t Cry Me A River. You see, JT (aka Justin Thomas) had nine birdies and one eagle to go with two bogeys and six pars, for 63. He tied the low single-round number for an Open, but he actually went 9-under par, and no one had ever gone deeper than 8-under (cough, Johnny Miller, cough.)

Truth be told, JT might be bringing SexyBack to golf. Senorita, it’s like he was LoveStoned or something. His playing partner, Jonathan Randolph, had to be thinking, Dude, What U working with? All right, we’re done with the Justin Timberlake (also named “JT”) references! All joking aside, what Justin Thomas did was historic. And we know what happens with historic in Round 3: it usually disappears for Round 4. Can this JT break with tradition and follow greatness with more greatness? We’ll see.

2. Go Low or Go Home

It’s a cliche, but it’s normally reserved for non-major championships. Probably not wanting the bemoaning that befell Chambers Bay two years back, the USGA was cautious with its set up of Erin Hills. Rains came a few times this week, softening things up just enough to keep balls in fairways and allow competitors to target hole locations. Add in absolutely perfect putting surfaces and all the ingredients for low numbers were on the counter.

Patrick Reed, sporting his lucky Ryder Cup red pants, went seven deep for 65 and moved into the top-10, four behind the leaders. Russell Henley had 67 and another bunch signed for 68 (Brooks Koepka, Si Woo Kim, Charley Hoffman and Tommy Fleetwood.) With rain drizzling at round’s end, expect more darts on Sunday and perhaps, a 62.

3. Our Guys, Brian Harman and Tommy Fleetwood

Why is Harman our guy? He tops out at 67 inches tall and he’s a lefty. He’s also at the top of the leaderboard. Harman has missed but five fairways all week, showing that driving accuracy is valuable. Harman also carried himself with an eerie calm, and he had his distance control on point. Sound like sage advice? Follow it the next time you play!

As for Fleetwood, he came to No. 18 tied for the lead at 12-under. Faced with a difficult third shot, Fleetwood chunked it into a swale, then putted his fourth past the hole and off the back of the putting surface, into another swale. He pitched his fifth within 5 feet, then fortunately drained the bogey putt for 68 and 11-under. We’ve all laid sod before, and we empathized with one of England’s best.

4. What We Didn’t Expect: Casey and Matsuyama Flops

If there were two guys you might have expected to take advantage of a windless, moist Saturday, they were named Paul Casey and Hideki Matsuyama. How do you define their days? Not one highlight from either on the USGA Twitter Feed.

Even if Casey had made zero bogeys or worse, his two birdies on the day would have left him three back of the leader. As it was, he got in trouble in the fescue on three, whiffed on his third shot and made his second triple bogey in two days. He bogeyed No. 4 and became an also-ran, ending the day with 75 for 4-under and a tie for 17th spot.

Matsuyama set the course ablaze on Friday with 65, but Saturday was a different story. After a successful outward nine of 34, Matsuyama bogeyed three of his first five holes on the inward side. He did well to add two more birdies to stay within the same zip code of the leaders. Super low might get it done for Matsuyama, but a lot will have to go his way.

5. Prediction for Sunday

Gone from the game of golf is fear. Not since Tiger has anyone struck fear in the hearts of other professional golfers. All of the competitors are in the same age bracket, between 21 and 30. They all (except for Harman) bomb the ball illegal distances. Each seems to be a nice, respectful guy, although inside all beats the heart of an assassin.

Let’s run the top-9 down, then settle on a winner:

  • Harman — Pro: plays within himself; Con: never been there.
  • Thomas — Pro: goes for everything; Con: when he gets wild…
  • Koepka — Pro: long and strong with great touch; Con: never been there
  • Fleetwood — Pro: our under the radar guy; Con: nerves have shown all week at crunch time
  • Fowler — Pro: has been there more than others in majors; Con: has yet to close out a major with a win
  • Kim — Pro: young and twice a winner on tour; Con: young and untested in the majors
  • Reed — Pro: the guttiest player out there come Ryder Cup time; Con: this is not Ryder Cup time
  • Henley — Pro: the best putter in the top nine; Con: zippo in the major championship experience column
  • Hoffman — Pro: wily veteran with major experience; Con: we miss his Samson-length hair

My pick for Sunday is a tie between Patrick Reed and Rickie Fowler. When that happens, U.S. teammates will battle on Monday for the trophy.

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13 COMMENTS

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  1. The USGA with a little help from Mother Nature is putting on a proper tournament for once. The course is actually playing like it was designed to be played and the majority of the contending golfers are the ones who have been trending and in contention in other recent tournaments during the past month or so.

    It would have been nice to have seen the players face more of the windy conditions that the course was designed to accommodate, but overall I am convinced that at the end of the day the winning golfer will be the one who is golfing their ball the very best and not the one who got the most freakishly lucky bounces around a bunch of dried-up, burnt-out greens.

  2. The grind will be in their faces, as it was today, when they realize that they need to keep up, not simply survive. One score is no different from another. Disaster is always one missed-swing away, thanks to the bunkers, the fescue, the hole locations.

  3. I second the poor broadcasting……and the camera operators are all over the map trying to spot the ball. Why does Buck have to loudly announce EVERYTHING?!! RICKIE FOWLER SAVES PAR!!! Sheesh already, I got it Joe, I got it, relax. Go watch some Pat Summerall and Ken Venturi broadcasts and take some notes on “conversational tones.” You’re driving me freakin’ nuts with the
    carnival barker announcements.

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