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10 Notes to Know From Round 3

September 19, 2020 Mamaroneck, N.Y. By Justin Ray
Xander Schauffele trails by 5 strokes going into the final round. He has come from behind in all four of his PGA Tour wins. (Jeff Haynes/USGA)

Here are 10 statistical nuggets from Saturday’s Round 3 of the 120th U.S. Open on the West Course at Winged Foot Golf Club:

1. Matthew Wolff leads the U.S. Open by two strokes entering the final round. At 21 years, 5 months, 5 days old, Wolff is the youngest player to lead the U.S. Open entering the final round since amateur Jim Simons in 1971. With a win on Sunday, Wolff would be the youngest major champion since Tiger Woods in the 1997 Masters and the youngest U.S. Open champion since Bob Jones in 1923.

2. This is the first U.S. Open held in the month of September since 1913. There’s an eerie set of parallels between the historic Francis Ouimet victory that year and what we have seen so far this week at Winged Foot. Wolff is attempting to become the first player to win in his U.S. Open debut since Ouimet that week in 1913. When Ouimet defeated Harry Vardon and Ted Ray in a playoff, the date was Sept. 20 – tomorrow’s date.

3. Wolff carded 65 on Saturday, tying the lowest score in a U.S. Open at Winged Foot, but hit only two fairways while doing it. It was the lowest round in a U.S. Open by a player hitting two or fewer fairways since the stats started being tracked more than 30 years ago. Despite that traditional statistic showing inaccuracy, Wolff was still a darling to the advanced numbers: he gained 0.83 strokes off the tee on Saturday, a respectable 16th-best in the field.

4. This is the fifth time in the last 30 years that a player age 24 or younger has held the 54-hole lead in the U.S. Open. In each of the previous four instances – Ernie Els in 1994, Tiger Woods in 2000, Rory McIlroy in 2011 and Jordan Spieth in 2015 – that player went on to win.

5. Bryson DeChambeau is alone in second place, the best 54-hole position of his major-championship career. DeChambeau missed a par putt on the 18th hole that would have made him the second player to begin a U.S. Open at Winged Foot with three rounds in the 60s, but missed. Hale Irwin remains the only player to hold that distinction, doing so in 1984.

6. Xander Schauffele will enter the final round five shots behind Wolff. Schauffele trailed by multiple strokes entering the final round in all four of his PGA Tour wins. In seven career weekend rounds in the U.S. Open, Schauffele has averaged 3.39 strokes gained total per round. In the last 100 years, only Bob Jones has a better average (4.28).

7. After the largest scoring average increase from Round 1 to Round 2 in U.S. Open history (2.69 strokes), conditions were more docile in the afternoon on Saturday. The field scoring average dropped to 73.6, a dip of more than a stroke and a half. Still, only three players are under par entering the final round – a stark contrast from 2019 at Pebble Beach, when 26 players were under par entering the final round.

8. Louis Oosthuizen, one of three players under par, shot his 10th career U.S. Open round of 68 or better on Saturday. Oosthuizen is the seventh player in U.S. Open history to record 10 or more rounds of 68 or lower, and just the second in the group to have never won the championship. The other is six-time runner-up Phil Mickelson, with 11 such rounds.

9. Hideki Matsuyama shot an even-par 70 and will enter Sunday’s final round five shots back. Matsuyama is tied for fourth, the best 54-hole position in the U.S. Open by a player from Japan since Shigeki Maruyama in 2004. Playing in his eighth U.S. Open, Matsuyama is trying to become the first Japanese champion in men’s major championship golf.

10. Will anyone chase down the final pairing Sunday? Each of the last six U.S. Open champions entered the final round either leading or in second place. The last 21 U.S. Open champions were at or within four strokes of the lead entering the final round. The players at 2 over might be the official cut-off point: every major champion since 2000 has been inside the top 10 through 54 holes.

Justin Ray is the head of content for 15th Club. He has also worked as a senior researcher at ESPN and Golf Channel.