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Round 3: 5 Things to Watch For

June 17, 2017 Erin, Wis. By Dave Shedloski
Expect the cheers to get louder this weekend at Erin Hills for Wisconsin native Steve Stricker. (USGA/Darren Carroll)

Two days into the 117th U.S. Open and this much we know for certain: Erin Hills doesn’t play favorites. Either hit the shots or hit the bricks.

When the dust settled Friday night, there was a four-way tie at the top with Paul Casey, Brian Harman, Tommy Fleetwood and Brooks Koepka, while first-round leader Rickie Fowler was among a trio of players just one behind. But the whole championship is a logjam. From top to bottom, the 68 players who made the cut are separated by eight strokes.

Anyone can win. And we mean anyone. The top three players in the world – Dustin Johnson, Rory McIlroy and Jason Day – missed the cut, the first time that has happened in this championship since the inception of the Official World Golf Ranking in 1986. In all, eight of the top 12 in the world are leaving early. The survivors: Fowler, Hideki Matsuyama (5-under 139, T-8), Sergio Garcia (3-under 141, T-19) and Jordan Spieth (even-par 144, T-43).

Scoring continued to be quite good on Friday. After a record 44 players broke par on Thursday, 46 more did it Friday, led by Harman and Matsuyama, who tied Fowler for low round of the championship with 65s of their own. Fun stuff.

Here are five things to look for today:

The breakout round: It’s moving day, in golf parlance, but at this U.S. Open, every day has been moving day, with some wild scoring swings. Already there have been three rounds of 7-under 65 on the table, which had never been done before. As 2015 champion Jordan Spieth observed, “It’s a course where I think you can create some excitement.” Is another low round in the offing? Chances are good because …

Weather impact: Rain was in the forecast overnight, and another front might move through in the afternoon. A firm and fast U.S. Open likely isn’t in the cards. Unless they hide the flags or the winds kick up, red numbers are inevitable.

A wide-open Open: With so many of the world’s top players headed home early, the chance of seeing another first-time winner break through has become much more likely. Only 10 players among the remaining 68 have a major title, including only two – 2014 U.S. Open champion Martin Kaymer and reigning Masters winner Sergio Garcia – are among  the top 23 on the leader board.. Of course, the one who figures to draw the loudest roars here in Cheesehead Nation is Steve Stricker.    

Sergio Garcia: Though he hasn’t caught fire yet, the Masters winner begins the third round just four strokes behind the leaders, not a bad position to be in to win the second leg of the Grand Slam. Having finally broken through for his first major at age 37, Garcia very well could have an advantage, with the aforementioned collection of non-major winners bunched in front of him.

Cameron Champ: Not only does this kid from Texas A&M have one of the best names in golf, he has incredible power off the tee. He leads the championship in driving distance with a two-day average of 339.2 yards. In practice rounds with Rory McIlroy and Louis Oosthuizen, no pikers when it comes to pumping drives, Champ was walking the farthest to his ball. An amateur hasn’t won the U.S. Open since John Goodman in 1933. Whether Champ can keep his momentum going remains to be seen, but it will be fun to watch him continue to launch moon balls no matter his score.

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