What a Saturday at the U.S. Open. Carnage all over the course, the annual USGA rules controversy, and a total knot atop the leaderboard. Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka, Daniel Berger, and Tony Finau all share the lead at +3, and four more major winners are within three strokes of their mark. We’re setting up for a fine Sunday at the U.S. Open, and to get you prepared, here are the answers to the big questions.
Can Dustin Johnson close the deal?
Absolutely. If you’re looking for proof, look at Saturday’s scorecard. Johnson carded four bogeys in five holes midway through the first round, and looked like he was ready to jump the track. But he played the remaining 10 holes at 1-over, his lone blemish coming on a missed putt on the final hole. He’ll be paired with 2017 U.S. Open champion Koepka. They won’t be in the final group; both wavered coming down the stretch and handed that final-pairing slot to Berger and Finau, who teed off nearly 10 hours earlier and then just sat back and watched the world collapse.
Who’s the biggest threat to Johnson?
There’s always the chance that Finau or Berger could step up and have the round of their lives, but they’ll both be in an unfamiliar spotlight. Koepka kept his head on a wreckage-filled Saturday, so he’d be one to watch if Johnson struggles. Both Henrik Stenson and Justin Rose are within striking distance, and both have shown flashes of the putting discipline and off-the-tee precision necessary to work around Shinnecock. But check out who’s just three strokes off the lead, with absolutely zero fanfare: Patrick Reed, the Masters champion. We’ve already seen how he shrugs off pressure; could he add a second major to his mantel on Sunday?
What will the course be like?
Pros complaining about the setup of the U.S. Open course is the true Tradition Unlike Any Other, and this year didn’t disappoint. Zach Johnson said Shinnecock was “lost,” and only three players shot under par on the day. How rugged was the course? Dustin Johnson shot six over … and held onto the lead. The USGA delights in torturing golfers, and achieved that mission Saturday; the association relented by watering the greens as the final pairings passed through.
The USGA conceded that the course got out of its control, largely because of the wind. “We thought it would be a great day,” USGA CEO Mike Davis said on the broadcast after the round. “Frankly, we missed it with the wind. The speed of the greens was too much for the wind we had. It was a very tough test, but probably too tough this afternoon.”
Sunday’s forecast looks like light wind, no rain, so if the greens are baked out, they’re going to stay that way. Pin placement will be key, and if the pins are in tight spots, we could see another over-par afternoon. But based on the USGA’s concessions at the end of Saturday’s round, it’s likely that Saturday’s round will be the toughest of the week.
Will Phil Mickelson get disqualified?
Ol’ FIGJAM got himself into quite the pickle early Saturday afternoon when he employed a little creative goalkeeping, running to knock a rolling ball back onto the green. He was tagged with a two-stroke penalty, but later claimed it was an intentional move to keep the ball on the green … which would seem to be, shall we say, highly improper. Anyway, there’s a case to be made for DQ’ing Phil, but don’t look for it to happen, based on the USGA’s own commentary after the round. Phil will be back at it early Sunday morning.
A remarkable sequence on Hole 13, where Phil Mickelson was assessed a two-stroke penalty for hitting a moving ball and ended up making a 10 on the hole. pic.twitter.com/kx6ieYiOGR
— U.S. Open (USGA) (@usopengolf) June 16, 2018
When does the U.S. Open air?
Festivities begin at 10 a.m. ET on Fox. The final pairing tees off at 2:24, which means they’ll wrap up somewhere around 7 p.m.
Who’s going to win?
Come on. If we told you that, you wouldn’t watch.