A Viewer’s Notebook: Guide to final round at U.S. Open

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A Viewer’s Notebook: Guide to final round at U.S. Open

PGA Tour

A Viewer’s Notebook: Guide to final round at U.S. Open

ERIN, Wis. – They’re off and running on a blustery day. The course will get back some of its revenge from Saturday’s red-number celebration of 32 rounds under par, including Justin Thomas’ record-breaking 63:

  • 1. Scores up: Don’t expect low scoring again, not with a course that’s drying out, having escaped local rains that fell elsewhere in the region. And there’s that wind. 10-25 miles per hour all day out of the west/northwest. Not exactly havoc-inducing, but certainly more than what the players had to handle all week. Course setup of 7,721 yards is the shortest of the week, about 100 yards less than the previous rounds.
  • 2. Backboard Jungle: One key to Saturday’s brilliant 63 was Justin Thomas’ smart use of backboards for playing shots that used the green contours. His U-turn birdie putt on the fifth hole showed real creativity, as did his use of backboards on his approaches to the eighth and 15th greens, both of which yielded birdies. That’s inventive play. We’ll see if anyone else can do that under the pressure of a final round. The best place to watch for it might be at the par-4 10th hole, 492 yards to a tough front-right hole location over the bunker, with support from the right.
  • 3. Drivable second: Maybe, on a par 4 that’s been moved up to 329 yards. But it plays into a strong head wind, making the 260-yard carry over the fairway bunker on the right extremely demanding for the only way to reach the green from the tee. So, too, is the back-right hole location on the smallest green on the course, only 4,000 square feet, with a surface that falls away. We’ll see lots of second shots running long into the steep falloff behind.
  • 4. Short but sweet ninth hole: Prediction. The par-3 ninth will play the hardest all day, thanks to a precarious back-right hole location in a sand-flanked corner of the green, 172 yards from the tee – 49 yards more than Saturday, with strong crosswinds. The hole could prove to be a turning point, especially if one of the leaders finds a bunker off the tee.
  • 5. Drama at the end: Even lengthened to 681 yards, the par-5 18th will be reachable in two. It always plays shorter than the registered yardage because they measure it as a three-piece hole with the second shot swung way right even though many players are taking it on as a straight hole, making it effectively 30 yards shorter. Plus, the prevailing wind from behind, which will turn this into easily reachable in two for players who thread their drive through the gauntlet of fairway bunkering. A back-right hole location leaves a lot of room to come in from the right, but the steep falloff looms behind, as Tommy Fleetwood knows, who putted into it Saturday and made a costly bogey. There will be fireworks here – and need for a fireman.

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