Recap of the day
Early starters: Danny Willett carded a 4-under-par 67 to move 23 spots up the leaderboard to T9 on 4-under 209 and Byeong Hun An’s 68 sprung him 18 spots into T14. Patrick Cantlay also needed 68 blows as he moved to T23 and is perhaps thinking what might have been.
Leaders: Rory McIlroy was stuck in calm waters, unable to do better than a 70 for solo sixth on 6-under 207. Ahead of him by just the one blow are Brooks Koepka (68), Chez Reavie (68) and Louis Oosthuizen (70). But all four now face a difficult Sunday task as two players have eased clear. Justin Rose’s 68 got him into solo second on 10-under 203, one behind Gary Woodland whose 69 left him on 202.
Low round of the day: Willett’s 67
Revised outright betting: Rose 7/4, Woodland 2/1, Koepka 5/1, McIlroy 10/1, Oosthuizen 12/1, Reavie 28/1, Kuchar 66/1
Sunday weather forecast
Early morning cloud will clear to produce sunny skies for the conclusion, but any hopes of strong wind adding spice appear to be unfounded. The forecast is for 11mph breezes.
Leaders after at 54 holes
Gary Woodland (69, 202) – Has made just the two bogeys all week and none at all on the back nine. Found fewer greens in regulation in round three (11 against 12 and 14 earlier in the week), but continues to rank first for Scrambling (88.24%) and is third for SG: Approach the Green (6.727).
Justin Rose (68, 203) – In contrast to Woodland he has five bogeys through 54 holes. He’s also second behind the leader for Scrambling (80.77%). He leads the field for SG: Putting (7.687) and is third for SG: Around the Green (4.835).
Brooks Koepka (69, 206) – A bogey-free lap that saw him ease into the water close by the leaders, like a major championship predator. Ranks first for both SG: Tee to Green (11.755) and Greens in Regulation (75.93%).
Chez Reavie (68, 206) – A good case for modern stats since traditional ones struggles to show what he did well, but in SG he ranks second for Approach the Green (6.734) and Tee to Green (11.344).
Louis Oosthuizen (70, 206) – Scratched three bogeys in his first 11 holes, but gave himself a chance with a late birdie hat trick at 15, 16 and 17. Hit every fairway in R3 yet made little headway in SG: Tee to Green.
Fate of the Favourites
Brooks Koepka – see above
Dustin Johnson (71, 211) – Made three early birdies, but added a trio of bogeys and has struggled with the flat stick: ranks 72nd for SG: Putting.
Rory McIlroy (70, 207) – Level par through 14 holes and two late birdies helped, but a bogey at 17 didn’t. Needs to go low on Sunday and hope for front-running jitters. Ranks third for SG: Off the Tee (3.731).
Tiger Woods (71, 213) – Five bogeys, five birdies and ranks top 30 for only one SG category (17th for Approach the Green).
Gary Woodland (69) – “It took me a while to control adrenaline. In other sports you use adrenaline to your advantage. Out here, I need to find a way to calm myself back down. I've learned to take an extra deep breath. I know what it takes to win. My game is in a great spot. I'm at a beautiful golf course. I came here to win, and that's what we're going out to do tomorrow.”
Justin Rose (68) – “I'm not chasing, really, I'm so close to Gary that I have to go out and play my game tomorrow. Putting definitely has been, to coin an American phrase, the MVP for sure. I've been reading the greens really well.”
Brooks Koepka (68) – “I don't need to go out and chase. I don't need to do much. Just kind of let it come to you. If I win, great. If not, I felt I've given it all I had this week and it's just not my week. I feel as confident as ever right now. It's probably the best ball-striking week I've had.”
Chez Reavie (68) – “This is a great golf course. I really enjoy playing here. This is the firmest and fastest I've ever played it.”
Louis Oosthuizen (70) – “For us trailing, you don't have that pressure of the lead. We can give it everything tomorrow. If you think you can take something on, take it on. And if you want to win the championship, you need to do that tomorrow.”
Rory McIlroy (70) – “It's definitely not a golf course or a golf tournament where you can go chasing. Even though I'm still a few off the lead, it's a wonderful opportunity for me to go out there and try to add to my major tally.”
Road to victory at the U.S. Open
2018 Brooks Koepka – R1: 46th, R2: 4th, R3: 1st
2017 Brooks Koepka – R1: 4th, R2: 1st, R3: 2nd
2016 Dustin Johnson – R1: 2nd, R2: 1st, R3: 2nd
2015 Jordan Spieth – R1: 7th, R2: 1st, R3: 1st
2014 Martin Kaymer – R1: 1st, R2: 1st, R3: 1st
Notes: In all 20 of the last 23 winners of this major were T4 or better at this stage and no less than 17 of them were T2 or better. In that period the biggest leaderboard leap was Webb Simpson, from T8 in 2012 and in terms of shot only one man came from further than four back (Lee Janzen’s five-shot claw back in 1998).
Fate of the 54-hole leaders in the U.S. Open – where did they finish?
2017 – Brian Harman 2nd
2016 – Shane Lowry 2nd
2014 – Martin Kaymer 1st
Notes: In the 21st century 28 men have had sole or shared possession of the lead at this stage of the championship and ten of them completed the victory. But in addition to these successes there have been some remarkable collapses. Retief Goosen in 2005 added an 81 (turning a three-shot lead into T11, eight swings back of the winner, just 12 months after maintaining a two-shot lead at the same stage). In 2007 Aaron Baddeley carded 80 and in 2010 (here at Pebble Beach) Dustin Johnson limped home with another 82, the first of three final round failures of his to turn a R3 lead into ultimate triumph.
Focus on – Majors at Pebble Beach
This is the sixth U.S. Open (and seventh major) to be hosted by Pebble Beach. Where have the eventual champions been at this stage of the tournament?
1972 – Jack Nicklaus led by one
1982 – Tom Watson was tied first (of two)
1992 – Tom Kite was tied second (one back)
2000 – Tiger Woods led by ten
2010 – Graeme McDowell was solo second (three back)
If all this points to Woodland and Rose, the chasers have some hope because in the 1977 PGA Championship Lanny Wadkins was tied fourth and six back.
Focus on – Gary Woodland with a lead
The 35-year-old Kansas man is 1-for-4 with a solo 54 hole lead. The victory came in the 2013 Reno Tahoe Open and most recently he took a three swing advantage into the final lap of January’s Tournament of Champions, posted 68, and was passed by Xander Schauffele. Including shared leads he is 1-for-8. Until last year’s PGA Championship he lacked one top ten in 27 major starts, but he led that event at halfway prior to T6 and he was T8 in the same event last month (although never in contention). He is 3-for-8 at going sub-70 when leading and has only once played Pebble Beach in a final round (he is 1-for-5 at the AT&T Pro-am) – that was an encouraging 65 which earned him T5.
Focus on – Justin Rose on the leader’s shoulder
He has plenty of experience heading into a final lap in second spot and not a great deal of it is winning experience. In fact, he is just 2-for-15 and is 0-for-4 when one swing back. The flipside is that his most recent example was a good one: When playing the final lap with Hao-Tong Li in last November’s Turkish Airlines Open and overhauling the Chinese golfer (albeit with a lot of late help from Li). In those 15 rounds he has broken 70 just three times.
Focus on – the chasers
Brooks Koepka is 4-for-5 at going sub-70 in the final round of the U.S. Open, Chez Reavie has just the one win on the PGA Tour (but the best AT&T Pro-am finish of the top six – second last year), Louis Oosthuizen still hasn’t won in the States, and Rory McIlroy has only won a major (four of them) with a 54 hole lead.