Is another US prodigy in the country’s ever impressive collection of under-23s about to stun the golf world and win a major in these strange, behind-closed-doors times?
Rory McIlroy is certainly one player who believes he can stop the remarkable Matthew Wolff in Sunday's final round of the 120th US Open.
Yet if the 21-year-old follows up his astonishing third-round 65 - so taking a two-shot advantage over countryman Bryson DeChambeau - then the rest must resign themselves to competing for second.
And America will have won 10 successive majors on US soil for the first time in more than 40 year.
History is definitely on the line. If Wolff emulates USPGA champion Collin Morikawa then it would be the first time different players aged 23 or younger have won majors in the same year since 1923. Morikawa is now 23 and could even feel quite old by Sunday evening.
A PGA Tour winner already, Wollf would be the youngest to win a major since Tiger Woods at the Masters in 1997.
We cannot say we were not warned after the Californian - who saw off Morikawa and DeChambeau at the 3M Open 14 months ago - finished fourth on his major debut at Harding Park behind Morikawa four weeks ago.
Wolff has a quirky swing but clearly is blessed with an unerring focus. A British golf writer famously once opined that Jim Furyk’s motion resembled an octopus falling out of a tree. This is similar, minus a few branches perhaps, but there is no doubt that like Furyk, Wolff has everything it takes to win a major. And perhaps way, way more.
If it is remarkable that he hit only two fairways all day and went out in 30 on the front nine - taking just 10 putts - then it is just as extraordinary that he played 19 consecutive holes at Winged Foot before taking a bogey on the 16th. The 17th and 18th are brutes, but he managed to save a par on the 17th and then birdie the forbidding last.
“I tried to shoot as little a score as possible with hitting as a few fairways as possible,” he joked. “It shows me what I can do in the final round. I was fortunate with the lies today, but I was buried on a few occasions and you just have to guess.
“The thing I did the best was when I had good lies in the rough, I made the best of it. I had the lead in Detroit a few months ago when Bryson beat me [at the Rocket Mortgage Classic] and I learned a lot from sleeping on it. I’m looking forward to it”
As the Americans like to say, there remains one question: can he?
McIlroy is counting on the youngster wobbling as he eyes up his first major in six years. Or to put it another way, since Wolff was in high school.
McIlroy was as old as 22 when he won the 2011 US Open, his first major, and he was amazed at Wolff’s feat. “I think anything under par on this course today is a really good score,” he said.
“What Matt has done is ridiculous. The wind is not quite as strong as it was yesterday and maybe played a touch less difficult I'll say. But some of the hole locations are still pretty tricky and got to leave yourself on the right side.
“But yeah, overall 68 out there is a really good score. I’m feeling pretty good that I've got a good chance going into tomorrow. If I go out there tomorrow and shoot another 68, I won't be too far away.”
If McIlroy shoots two-under again, it would take him to one-under and it will require Wolff to shoot 74 to get into a play-off. Of course, there is not only Wolff and DeChambeau, on three-under after a 70 to bypass, but South African Louis Oosthuizen in third on one-under and Xander Schauffele, Harris English and Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama on level par.
Pressure is the thing and how McIlroy could do with the crowds. The 31-year-old is a born performer and knows that the crowd would be behind him, especially after his wife Erica gave birth to Poppy two weeks ago. McIlroy was at his mischievous best in suggesting that the New York throngs would have given Reed and DeChambeau some stick on Saturday.
Perhaps it was appropriate that on a layout where the pros have to dissect the fairways that the two most divisive figures in the game were in the final group. Reed and DeChambeau have enjoyed their fair share of controversies and, as McIlroy hinted they would not have been the darlings of the galleries, regardless of their nationality.
“Look, you've got Bryson and P-Reed out in the final group, and any other US Open final grouping you've got those two guys, things are going to be said and tempers are going to flare,” McIlroy said. Indeed.
But there would also be raucous support for Wolff and maybe the silence will help the youngster, too. Except not as far as Schauffele is concerned. “Matt hits it really far, he hits it really high and he's not afraid,” he said. “And yeah, Matt doesn't really care."
And it runs a few foot past. That denies him three straight rounds in the 60s.
But he cleans up for bogey and will be in the final group tomorrow. Matt Wolff will have a two-shot lead going into the final round with DeChambeau and Oosthuizen the only other players under par.
Well judged from DeChambeau
His chip trundles up to six feet or so. That for par and to stay within one of Wolff.
More rough for DeChambeau at the 18th
Misses the fairway and the green to the right and will need to get up and down to stay at four-under.
DeChambeau makes another birdie
This is developing into a big finish. Another gouge from the rough releases to within birdie range of the front pin at 17 and he rolled the putt in dead weight.
Reed is scrambling...and another par putt misses the left edge. The missed fairways have caught up with him today. That's him two-over for the tournament and six-over for the day.
Both DeChambeau and Reed miss fairways at the 17th
Bryson is a long way down there though and might still be able to find the green.
DeChambeau holes a double breaker
It's a birdie at the 16th for the mad scientist. It was wobbling around all over the place and looked like missing on the left but it toppled in. Reed had a good birdie try just slip past.
Wolff on his round
Schauffele's big finish
Reed finally hits a fairway on the 16th
He is a six-over through six holes of the back nine and desperately needs something to go right.
Big putt holed at the 18th
Xander Schauffele has drained a long one for birdie for a round of 68 to get him back to even par for the tournament. Just two shots behind second and five behind Wolff. Incredibly, Wolff hit only two of 14 fairways.
Wolff's round was historic
Matthew Wolff: most strokes gained total in a 3rd round of a @usopengolf at Winged Foot (currently sitting at about +8.6). Bobby Jones held previous mark, +7.88, when he shot 71 in 1929.— Justin Ray (@JustinRayGolf) September 19, 2020
Wolff's birdie putt at the 18th...
Rolls it right in the heart of the cup. That's one hell of a round - five-under 65 - and when his head hits the pillow tonight he will be leading the US Open. How well will he sleep?
Stunning from Wolff at the 18th
A towering high draw with his second, no time wasted standing over it and it releases to 10 feet or so for birdie. He has that putt for a 65 which is the equivalent of a 59 at a regular PGA Tour event.
Another bogey for Reed
A cruel lip out and that is four bogeys in five holes. He has tumbled all the way back to level par for the tournament. DeChambeau taps in for par at the 14th and he stays well positioned at two-under.
A stroke of good fortune for Wolff
On the 18th tee...the ball was going to run into the thick primary rough but a helpful kick keeps it within the border of the semi-rough. Good chance to make par or even better from there.
Rough to rough for Reed
He missed the green right on the 15th so will have to rely on his short game again. Schauffele has dropped a shot on 16 to drop back to one-over.
Wolff over his long birdie putt on the 17th...and it's very well judged. No more than a foot to tap-in for his par.
Schauffele's up and down from earlier
To the 17th...
Wolff finds the heart of the green from the left rough. Of course, the ball releases out with no spin and it will be some 30 to 35 feet back.
Reed drops a shot at 13
DeChambeau is chuntering away to himself, providing a running commentary on what's gone wrong with his calculations after every shot. This time his tee shot on the 14th dives down into the left rough.
All going pear-shaped for Reed
He putts off the green at the par-three 13th. Matsuyama has shanked a pitch into the greenside bunker at the 17th. Meanwhile, Rory McIlroy at one-over is sneaking closer to the first page of the leaderboard.
Wolff's putt misses
He drops back to four-under and the lead is now two.
Wolff rewarded for a patient approach
Fires it over the top of the flag and the ball runs back down the back-stop behind the flag. Will have 12 feet or so to save his par. Schauffele with a great up and down at the 15th to stay at even par.
Wolff on the 16th
A miss left off the tee and he has no option but to pitch the ball back to the fairway. There was a gap through the trees but he decided against taking on the hero shot. Wisely.
Reed has missed his birdie putt on the 12th.
Reed on the par five 12th
Layed up to 136 yards and feeds the wedge in off the shoulder on the right of the green. Runs down to eight feet or so for birdie and a chance to close the game. Up ahead at the 16th, Matsuyama rolls in an important par putt to stay at two-under.
Wolff within a whisker of getting to six-under
Explosive approach from the rough set up a 15-foot birdie putt that ran across the front of the hole. Another hole ticked off.
Double bogey for Reed
How did he make a double? Well he missed the putt for a bogey of course. That's a big moment in this championship. Wolff, with his funky steep-away-flat-on-the-way-down swing leads the US Open by three.
Reed finds trouble at the 11th
Missed the green a long way to the right and his pitch does not make the putting surface. Needs to get up and down for bogey.
Up ahead, Matt Wolff is on the 15th tee. Winged Foot's finish is very tough, four stiff par fours. His drive turns over a little too much and he will be in the rough left of the fairway.
Back to Reed: he has four and a half feet for bogey at the 11th.
Matsuyama in sole third
Reed bidies the ninth to join Wolff
Like so many players today, the pre-round leader has taken full advantage of the forgiving par-five. Reed and Wolff tied at five-under.
Some separation on the leaderboard now
Wolff at five-under, Reed at four. There is a three way tie at two under between Matusyama, Schauffele and Dechambeau. Scoring has been much better today than yesterday with pins in friendlier positions.
McIlroy in the clubhouse
He finishes with six straight pars to card a two-under round of 68. That is excellent golf on the third day of a US Open and it's his second round in the 60s this week. Moving in the right direction and into the top 10.
Finally, something good happens for Bryson
Ge rebounds to two-under after holing a long birdie putt at the seventh.
Wolff's birdie putt slides by
But is it a very difficult hole out of the way as he walks to the 11th tee.
Rory McIlroy hanging in there
Every. Shot. Counts.@McIlroyRory 💪 for par at the 15th.— U.S. Open (USGA) (@usopengolf) September 19, 2020
For LIVE #USOpen coverage, including streaming, shot-by-shot data, and much more, download the OFFICIAL #USOpen App in the Google Play and App Stores pic.twitter.com/oO4rnIfhMi
Four consecutive pars heading to the 17th. Still one-over and inside the top 10.
Xander making a move
Schauffele is now making his move, rolling in an eagle from 20 feet or so at the ninth. He jumps up to two-under and in sole possession of third.
Wolff producing one of the great US Open rounds
After a birdie at the par-five ninth that took him out in a scarcely believable 31, he has stuck his approach to within birdie range at the par three 10th.
Wolff is now the new tournament leader at five-under with Reed at four.
What a bounce back from Reed
He leads again after playing fifth in textbook fashion: fairway, green and a holed birdie putt. No need for his scrambling skills there.
Hungry like the Wolff
Back to back birdies has Wolff tied for the lead after Reed's bogey at the par three fourth. DeChambeau saved his par at the third but it is still a slow start at two over through three.
More good stuff from McIlroy on the back nine
Birdied the par five 12th and found the heart of the green on the par three 13th. Now one-over for the tournament - if he could finish at even he would be within striking distance by the end of the day.
Reed and DeChambeau miss the third green way left. Likely dropped shots coming up.
Reed with a birdie
It was a fantastic iron shot from the fairway bunker on the second and an unerring putt from 20 feet or so to extend his lead to three. Impressive to be one-under after two missed fairways!
Pieters swinging well again
Another missed fairway for Reed
He is giving it the old helicopter finish but he is not getting his drive to cut. That one runs into the left fairway bunker. DeChambeau stands up and hits a pull hook so far left it might be on another hole. That was a gruesome swing, he looks rattled.
Thomas has started with three straight bogeys to drop back to one over. Bogey too for Harris English on the second but Cabrera Bello has made a great save from a plugged lie in a bunker.
Shocking stuff from DeChambeau
He left his birdie putt around 12 foot short and then barely got his par putt to the hole. That's a bogey five after a 325-yard drive to the middle of the fairway, really sloppy.
Reed holds his nerve though and buries his par putt. That's a bit of a dagger for Bryson. The lead extends to two.
Matsuyama a man on the move
Three birdies in his opening five holes, albeit with two bogeys, and his latest moves him to red figures for the championship.
What a start for Matt Wolff
Two birdies in his first four holes and just two off the lead now. DeChambeau found the middle of the green at the first but it is not in birdie range, while Reed had to pitch out into the fairway. It is a delightful third from Reed though from 70 yards or so, and it stops just five feet from the pin. A great chance to save par.
He bogeyed the fiendishly difficult par three 10th but rallies to save par at his next hole. That is vital for momentum.
DeChambeau's drive by the way, rolled out to 325 yards. Will be a flick with a sand wedge from there.
DeChambeau and Reed on the first tee
DeChambeau out with the big stick and he launches one down the left centre that carries 297 yards through the air. The ideal start.
Reed up next, not as long as Bryson, and is opening tee shot is a pull into the left rough. Another chance for Reed to show his enviable recovery game.
Not a good start from Thomas
He bogeyed the first, and then has hit a duck hook off the second tee when trying to peel a fade off the left bunkers. Back at the first, Harris English has fired an iron shot right over the top of the pin and will have six feet for birdie.
At the fourth, Matsuyama has entered the top 10 after another birdie.
Three straight bogeys to start for Rahm
He was many judges' pick to sneak up on the blindside this weekend. But Rahm has moved in the wrong direction and is now four-over, seven off the lead.
Just 10 minutes until the leaders tee off.
Some early birdies around
Brendon Todd and Matt Wolff have moved into red figures for the tournament. McIlroy did well to get his second shot greenside at the ninth and he got the ball up and down for birdie. Now one-over as he makes the turn and just five shots off the lead. He has played beautifully on the front nine.
Matsuyama's early birdie
McIlroy finds sand at nine
After a rock solid par at the eighth, McIlroy pulls driver on the ninth but finds the right-hand fairway bunker. That will likely take the green out of range in two.
Fast start from Matsuyama
He holed a sensational chip shot on the first hole yesterday and it has been kind to him once again. A birdie three to start his third round and move into red figures for the tournament.
Well played Alex Noren
He birdies the last where the pin position is slightly more friendly today and will sign for a three-under 67. That moves him to three-over and inside the top 20.
Another wonderful tee shot from McIlroy
He splits the eighth fairway with another 300-yard plus tee shot and will have not much more than a seven or eight iron in his hands for his second.
Birdie time for McIlroy!
He deserves that for his fine play and it moves him to within six shots of the lead. The par five ninth is reachable in two for him so represents a great chance.
Another great swing from McIlroy
Straight over the front right pin at the par three seventh and he will have a 10 foot putt to move to two-over with a par five to come in two holes.
Bogey start for Rahm
And it could have been a lot worse. His tee shot went sharp left and he had almost 250 yards remaining for his second from rough. Tony Finau and Billy Horschel have made early birdies to move to one-over.
What an up and down it was from Hovland
Five out five GIR found from McIlroy
An exhibition of ball striking so far but still no birdie after two putts from 30 feet on the fifth. Pars are a good at Winged Foot on Saturday though.
One shot in front of McIlroy, Simpson and Holvand have parred their first two holes.
Some contenders teeing off soon
Webb Simpson could be a dark horse at two-over. He has started with a solid par at the first. Just a few minutes before Jon Rahm begins his third round, looking to eat into the five-shot gap to Reed.
Paul Casey showing it is possible...
He has just made four consecutive birdies on the back nine to get himself back to six-over.
Another par for McIlroy
Once again he struggled to get his approach shot close enough to a tucked pin at the fourth and had to settle for another par. In truth, it was a good two putt from almost 40 feet.
Another bogey for Dustin Johnson at the par-three third
Not the start the 2016 champions was looking for. Now two-over through the first three and five-over for the tournament. The Fedex Cup winner has run out of gas this week.
Alex Noren's good day at the office continues
He is two-under for the day through 15 holes and is now four-over for the championship. Who knows how close to the lead that will be?
Just a par for McIlroy at the third...
...and Dustin Johnson has settled himself down with a par four at the second. McIlroy with a booming drive down the fourth to leave himself less than 150 yards in.
McIlroy's good ball-striking continues
Finds the middle of the the green at the par-three third and will have 25 feet for birdie after a par-par start.
How's your luck?
Rock solid from McIlroy on the second
Another fairway found and another iron shot to the heart of the green on this par four. Sound start from McIlroy.
Back at the first...Johnson managed to get his second to the greenside rough but his pitch leaves him 10 feet or so for par. He was actually so far left off the tee he found the semi-rough on the ninth! But his par putt drifts right so that's a bogey start.
Playing partner Thomas Detry has bogeyed the first to drop back to four-over.
Loose iron shot from McIlroy
Slightly pulled his approach to the back of the first green when the hole is cut to tight to the right, leaving himself a frightful triple-breaker from more than 50 feet. To his credit, McIlroy cleaned up for par with a return putt from a good eight feet.
Dustin Johnson tees off with driver at the first...and it is a huge hook that gets stuck behind some trees in the deep rough. That was a little wild.
Rory McIlroy getting started
Cracking drive to the right half of the fairway at the first. No more than an eight or a nine iron left from there and a chance for an early birdie.
Today's pin positions
Only one player under par from the early starters
That is Swede Alex Noren who has played the front nine in one-under to reach five-over.
Some selected tee times to mark your card
5.02 Cameron Smith, Rory McIlroy
5.13 Thomas Detry, Dustin Johnson
5.24 Daniel Berger, Lee Westwood
5.35 Renato Paratore, Lucas Glover
5.46 Webb Simpson, Viktor Hovland
5.57 Billy Horschel, Tony Finau
6.08 Stephan Jaeger, Jon Rahm
6.19 Louis Oosthuizen, Joaquin Niemann
6.30 Bubba Watson, Hideki Matsuyama
6.41 Brendon Todd, Matthew Wolff
6.52 Xander Schauffele, Thomas Pieters
7.14 Harris English, Rafa Cabrera Bello
7.25 Bryson DeChambeau, Patrick Reed
They rub people up the wrong way, but these leaders can golf their ball
Bryson DeChambeau and Patrick Reed are unlikely to trouble the engravers at any popularity contests, but they do make for a fascinating final two-ball on the third day of the US Open at Winged Foot.
DeChambeau has been true to his word by attacking the course at every opportunity and pursuing a 'bomb and gouge' strategy off the tee, and even in yesterday's tougher conditions it paid off.
Reed has a short-game from heaven and relishes events where par is a good score. He is also a fantastic match-player and Geoff Ogilvy, winner of the US Open the last time it was held at Winged Foot in 2006, was a previous WGC World Matchplay champion. A positive link potentially?
Reed said: "I love the grind, I love getting in there and I love when it's hard, when you have to be creative on all different golf shots. And I always enjoy playing with Bryson. It's kind of one of those things that we go out there, and I think around here it's not really as much on who you're playing with because you're out there attacking the golf course."
For my money Justin Thomas is still very well positioned after playing his final eight holes in two-under to recover from a double-bogey on his 10th yesterday. His head could easily have exploded at that point but he kept his poise, and you sense he may have got his so-so round out of the way.
With the greens drying out and a fresh breeze, all 62 players who made the cut will feel they have a chance of a very high finish with two good rounds. Anything under the par of 70 can propel a player 20 or so places up the leaderboard.
Harris English and Spaniard Rafa Cabrera Bello are also sitting pretty at two-under with just six players in red figures.