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U.S. Open 2022 Final Round Preview: Star-Studded Leaderboard Set for Treacherous Sunday

U.S. Open 2022 Final Round Preview: Star-Studded Leaderboard Set for Treacherous Sunday article feature image
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Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images. Pictured: Matt Fitzpatrick.

BROOKLINE, Mass. — What a brilliant third round of the U.S. Open we just witnessed, as the USGA, The Country Club and Mother Nature conspired to produce some beautifully brutal conditions which simultaneously left many of the world’s best players muttering helplessly to themselves while separating the serious contenders from the impetuous pretenders going into the tournament’s final day.

“Everyone knows what a U.S. Open is like,” said 54-hole co-leader Matt Fitzpatrick. “Today was just a prime example of a U.S. Open Saturday.”

And here’s the best part: It’s only going to get more devilish on Sunday.

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Apologies for the lack of a spoiler alert, but this host venue is becoming firmer and faster and tougher by the minute, and the weather is only going to be cooler and more blustery for the final stanza.

The predictive analysis gets more difficult from there, as a veritable logjam of world-class players remain in contention with 18 holes left to play.

Fitzpatrick and Will Zalatoris claim a tenuous position atop the leaderboard at 4-under, followed by Jon Rahm one shot back following a final-hole double-bogey. Right behind him are local favorite Keegan Bradley, Adam Hadwin and Masters champion Scottie Scheffler, with Rory McIlroy, Sam Burns and Joel Dahmen one more shot behind.

In all, there are 10 players within four strokes of the lead — and if we want to extend it to the same differential overcome by Justin Thomas as last month’s PGA Championship, then it’s worth noting that there are 32 players within seven shots.

If it seems like I’m simply filibustering to avoid making a specific winning prediction, there’s a good reason for that: I am.

Of those in serious contention, I could easily put together a list of pros and cons for the final round which suggests how each could win this title, but also explains why they won’t.

Zalatoris is a world-class ball-striker, but has yet to close out even a PGA TOUR victory, let alone a title. Fitzpatrick owns history on this course and thrives in tough conditions, but similarly hasn’t won a professional tournament here in the U.S.

Rahm is the defending champion, so he understands how to close out this event, yet he’s largely failed to play his best golf this year and looked shaky trying to close out his third round.

Bradley will have the most support from this vocal gallery, but needs to internalize the pressure of trying to claim a hometown title. Hadwin is playing without expectations or a target on his back, but doesn’t have the offensive firepower of his fellow contenders. Scheffler is the world’s top-ranked player and has learned how to close ‘em out, however his Saturday back-nine left plenty to be desired.

All of which makes it utterly difficult to choose a winner for Sunday’s final round, but also fascinating. With so many potential champions and another day of brutal conditions, expect things to get wild down the stretch. That might be the only easily predictable part of this.

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