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5 Things We Learned on Day 3 of The Open

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5. Bones Can See The Future

At the beginning of the NBC Coverage, Dan Hicks asked Jim “Bones” MacKay what he expected to see out on the course today. After a few quick explanations of the conditions and the setup, Bones quickly said, “Don’t tell Johnny, but I could see a 62 today.” Sure enough, Branden Grace went on a few hours later to post the lowest round ever in a Major Championship (unless you’re Dan Jenkins and can’t let go of the past).

Grace played spectacular golf, which is not uncharacteristic of the young South African. He had a chance to win the 2015 U.S. Open at Chambers Bay until he was derailed on the par-3 16th that year. Not everyone gets another chance to win a major, but Grace put himself right in the mix with a 62 that’s sure to break Johnny Miller’s heart. He also happened to pick Spieth as the winner this year, or at least the guy he was keeping his eye on. Not exactly a dark-horse pick, but that doesn’t take away from the apparent success of his pick thus far.

4. Lack Of Poor Weather Is An Equalizer

The Open Championship boasted an average age of 39 for the winner over the last couple of decades, but with a lack of wind and rain on Saturday experience is less of a factor. Soft and slow greens allowed for players to take aim at pins and sink downhill putts you’re not supposed to make. The best round in major history was shot today by a 29-year-old South African without a major victory and the leaderboard has as many 20-somethings as it does wily veterans. Richie Ramsay and 20-year-old Austin Connelly posted a pair of 66s today, which puts Connelly in the second to last group. Even though Spieth and Kuchar are three shots clear of the field, anyone could shoot another 62 tomorrow and put the pressure on if the weather holds.

3. Stenson’s Open Championship Hangover Is Long Gone

We’ll always remember the duel from last year at Royal Troon when Phil Mickelson lost by three shots after shooting a final-round 65. Stenson’s form since last year’s win hasn’t been great, but after posting his own 65 today he’s in the mix. If the “Ice Man” hits his signature frozen rope 3-woods and iron shots, then it could be a final round to remember. Stenson’s rental house was broken into earlier in the week, and while this could cause undue stress on a typical player, it could also provide just enough distraction from the golf at hand to prevent nerves from setting in. Golf is a funny game, and you never know what outside factors could hurt or help a player’s game. He proved to us last year that he can sink putts when he needs to, and without the added pressure of being the final group, Stenson could go out early and post a number that rattles the field.

2. Kuchar Has Staying Power

Matt Kuchar has long been a beloved pro by golf fans, but to this point, he’s been unable to take his game to the next level and break through in a major. The adage used to be in golf, “put yourself in contention enough times, you’ll eventually come out on top.” The young guns on tour have thrown that path to victory out the window, but that hasn’t stopped Kuchar from hanging around leaderboards for the past decade. Nobody would have faulted him if he’d shot even par and dropped a few spots today, but he didn’t. Despite making a horrific double bogey on No. 16, he rallied with an impressive bunker shot to set up a tap-in birdie on No. 17. He followed that with an incredible shot from the left rough on No. 18 to set up one of only nine birdies on the final hole in Round 3. Kuchar missed the putt, but who can blame him after Spieth sank an uppercut of a putt just before. With eight top-10s and 19 top-25s in majors, Kuchar is due to hold a trophy, but it’s going to take something magical to oust the young gentleman.

1. Spieth Could Be Wire-To-Wire King

Taking a three-shot lead into Sunday, having held at least a share of the lead for three rounds, Jordan Spieth could be only the second player in history to win two majors in wire-to-wire fashion. The other player? Rory McIlroy. Spieth made it around Royal Birkdale with a bogey-free 65 today capped off by an incredibly clutch birdie on No. 18. A win tomorrow makes him the second-youngest player to ever win three legs of the career grand slam, behind only Jack Nicklaus. It also means he’ll have a winning percentage of 15.7 percent in major championships at the age of 23, finishing inside the top-25 in 53 percent of major appearances. Spieth simply needs to repeat what he did in the final round of the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am in February to hoist the Claret Jug. If today was any indication, and with no Rae’s creek at Royal Birkdale, he’ll have no problem doing so.

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Adam Crawford is a writer of many topics but golf has always been at the forefront. An avid player and student of the game, Adam seeks to understand both the analytical side of the game as well as the human aspect - which he finds the most important. You can find his books at his website, chandlercrawford.com, or on Amazon.

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It’s the Ardmore! Woods begins Quicken Loans National with TaylorMade putter in the bag

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If you had a bet going with your buddies that there was no way Tiger Woods would depart from his beloved 13 major-winning Scotty Cameron Newport 2 GSS this week, you lose.

Woods started the first round of the Quicken Loans National with the TaylorMade Ardmore 3 he has been practicing all week with at TPC Potomac.

Adam Schupak spotted Woods’ caddie, Joe LaCava, on the way to the first tee for Woods’ 1:20 ET start time with the camo TaylorMade putter cover in the bag (not surprisingly, the TaylorMade Ardmore 3 was beneath the cover).

Woods has struggled with the putter this season, as we’re all well aware, particularly since the Memorial. No. 89 on Tour in strokes gained: putting, the 14-time major champion knew he had to do something.

“I’m trying to find something that I can feel again, like the swing of the putter, getting my body in the right positions and seeing the lines again,” Woods said. “You know, it’s just one of those things, once I start to get the ball rolling on my lines, then I’ll be back to putting like I was. I just have not been rolling it on my lines. And then on top of that, when they don’t roll on lines, then I have a hard time seeing my lines and it’s a vicious cycle. And I’m just trying to get out of that cycle.”

Woods reportedly tried a number of TaylorMade putters in the Bahamas last week, arriving (as far as we know) at the Quicken Loans National with just the Ardmore and his Newport to choose between.

He has made his choice for the first round. We’ll see how it pans out and whether Woods remains a mallet man all week.

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5 things we learned on Sunday of the 2018 U.S. Open

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Opportunity knocked for so many golfers, yet it was the 2017 champion who seized the moment when it was his. Brooks Koepka fired his second sub-par round of the week on Sunday to separate from playing partner Dustin Johnson, and enter the pantheon of multiple major champions. He became the 7th player to defend his title, joining old-school legends like Willie Anderson and John McDermott, mid-century icons like Ralph Guldahl and Ben Hogan, and the last man to accomplish the feat, Curtis Strange. With that introduction, let’s move to the main event, the 5 things we learned on Sunday at Shinnecock Hills.

5) The USGA gave golf a chance

True to its word, the USGA pulled out all the stops in the wee hours of Sunday morn. The course set-up team ensured that enough water was distributed to putting surfaces, that worthy shots would not be punished. Hole locations were assessed and confirmed, also ensuring that multiple opportunities for success were available. As a result, 15 golfers turned in scores under par of 70, highlighted by Tommy Fleetwood’s 7-under stunner. Although many fans, writers and players were quick to assault the organizers for losing control of the course, the USGA reminded us that it always had control of the conditions at Shinny, and that its only mistake was to soar too close to the sun.

4) Captain America ran out of gas

If Patrick Reed had been able to sign his card on the 9th tee, when he stood 5-under on the day and 1-over for the tournament, he would be in a playoff with the eventual champion as I type. Unfortunate for this year’s Masters champion was that 10 holes remained. Reed promptly bogeyed the 9th, added 3 more bogeys on the inward half, and summoned just one birdie toward the end. His fourth-place finish was his best in a U.S. Open, but knowing that victory was in the cards will sting for a while.

3) DJ and Finau gave it a run

Where to begin? How about this: DJ had four bogeys on Sunday. He totaled that many on Thursday-Friday combined. He had birdies, too, but couldn’t find the game that possessed him over the opening 36 holes. Oddly enough, this type of experience won’t be a setback for the 2016 champion. After all, he came back from a career-killer in 2015, when he 3-whacked his way out of a playoff with Jordan Spieth at Chambers Bay. As for Milton Pouhau Finau, aka Tony, the Utah native had never before been in the final group on any day of a major professional championship. He acquitted himself well, standing even on the day and 3-over for T2 at the 18th tee. Knowing that he needed eagle for a playoff might have taken the final winds from his sails, and he limped home with double bogey and solo third. Looking ahead to the final August playing of the PGA Championship, Bellerive near St. Louis might just be his type of course.

2) Tom Terrific nearly made his own U.S. Open history

I’ll write this cautiously, as I’m certain I would have intimated in the 1980s and 90s that Colin Montgomerie and Lee Westwood would have been major champions by now. Tommy Fleetwood ought to win one of these things soon. His record-tying 63 was a short putt away from a record-breaking 62. Eight birdies against a single bogey was the stuff of legend, and if only he had trusted that final putt a bit higher on the break … that’s not fair. Fleetwood right now is the fellow to watch at Carnoustie next month. Bet a few quid or bob or whatever on the Southport native, as he should contend for the title.

1) Brooks cooks up a winning broth

It’s easy to look back and see all the great shots that the defending champion hit over the four days of the 2018 U.S. Open, shots that would win him his second consecutive trophy. Remember that 60-feet bomb to save par on Saturday? Shades of Costantino Rocca. How about the approach shots to within mere feet that earned him 5 birdies on Sunday, including a competition-killer on 16? Koepka was the guy we thought Dustin Johnson would be. Perhaps it was the time off for wrist rehabilitation early this season that gave him the burning desire to win. Out for nearly 4 months, Koepka had plenty of time to ponder what he achieved last June in Wisconsin, and what might lay ahead for him. The begged question is, does the most recent, two-time major winner have the game to acquire more of the game’s cherished trophies?

Related: Brooks Koepka’s Winning WITB from the 2018 U.S. Open

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Wednesday’s Photos from the 2018 U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills

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GolfWRX is live from the 2018 U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills Golf Club (par 70; 7,440 yards) in Southhampton, New York. The U.S. Open returns to Shinnecock for the first time since 2004 when Retief Goosen won (he failed to qualify for the 2018 event).

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Phil Mickelson, who has two top-5 finishes at Shinnecock Hills, will seek to fill out his career Grand Slam with a win this week. Also, it’s Tiger Woods’ 10-year anniversary of winning the legendary 2008 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines — that was his most recent major championship victory.

Also in the field are headliners Dustin Johnson (now ranked No. 1 in the Official World Golf Rankings), Justin Thomas (No. 2), Justin Rose (No. 3), Jon Rahm (No. 4) and Jordan Spieth (No. 5).

Brooks Koepka (No. 9) is the defending champion; he won last year by four shots for his first and only major so far in his career.

Check out our photos from Shinnecock Hills below!

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Discussion: See what GolfWRX members are saying about the photos in our forums

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