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Five Things to Watch for on Sunday

June 18, 2017 Erin, Wis. By Dave Shedloski
Can Brian Harman maintain his 54-hole lead and become the first left-handed U.S. Open champion? (USGA/Michael Cohen)

With 18 holes to play, the 117th U.S. Open still can be won by any number of players, though there was a bit of thinning of the herd on Saturday. Left-hander Brian Harman leads at 12-under 204, but there are 16 players within six shots of the lead.

And none of those players has ever won a major.

So it’s very likely that the U.S. Open will have its eighth first-time major winner in the last 11 years. Pressure isn’t on just one guy; it’s spread around.

This should be one entertaining day on a course softened by yet more rain on Saturday evening. Is more low scoring in the offing? Hmmm. Not so fast.

Here are five things to look for on the final day:

Brian Harman: Believed to be only the third left-hander to lead a round in the U.S. Open in the modern era, Harman is in position to make history if he can hang on. He’d be the first lefty to win the U.S. Open and only the fifth to win a major after Bob Charles, Mike Weir, Phil Mickelson and Bubba Watson. Making just his eighth start in a major, Harman’s best finish is a tie for 26th in the 2014 Open Championship. He has handled the pressure beautifully thus far, but this is new territory for him.

Justin Thomas: If there is one player on the leader board who might show no fear, it’s the Kentucky kid, who shot 59 in Hawaii in January and set the U.S. Open record in relation to par Saturday with his 9-under 63. He might even defy the karma that follows a player the day after he shoots a low round. Thus far at Erin Hills, we’ve seen Rickie Fowler go 65-73, Hideki Matsuyama 65-71 and Chez Reavie 65-72. Already a three-time winner on the PGA Tour this year, Thomas, also playing in his eighth major, could run away with the title if he breaks the trend.

Wind impact: Not only nerves will jangle the scoring ability of the leaders, but the weather is expected to turn cooler and windier on Sunday. The wind has barely rippled across the rumpled fairways of Erin Hills this week, which explains much of the scoring barrage for the first 54 holes, so a different golf course awaits if we do see some freshening breezes. Course management and patience will be crucial.

Brandt Snedeker: If there is a dangerous lurker among the last eight groups (anyone within six shots of the lead), it’s Snedeker, who has four top-10 finishes in the U.S. Open and has built a reputation for come-from-behind victories. Among his eight PGA Tour wins are comebacks of seven and six strokes on the final day. He recorded his last win, the 2016 Farmers Insurance Open, with a final-round 69 in rain and high winds when the field averaged 77.9.

The undercard: Winning low-amateur honors in the U.S. Open is a great achievement. Many years it’s not much of a battle, but Cameron Champ and Scottie Scheffler are just two strokes apart through 54 holes after Scheffler, despite a triple bogey at the last hole, shot a 1-under 71 and Champ rallied for a 73. Champ is at 4-under 212 to Scheffler’s 214. It should be a great finish.

Dave Shedloski is an Ohio-based freelance writer and a frequent contributor to USGA websites.