The Country Club bit back Saturday as golfers were faced with a much sterner examination during the third round of the 2022 US Open. Pars felt like birdies, bogeys felt like pars, and birdies felt like highway robbery. While a number of premier players struggled to conquer the firm, fast, and windy conditions in Brookline, Massachusetts, there were two men who rose above the rest and in the process vaulted themselves to the top of the leaderboard.
Those two would be Will Zalatoris and Matthew Fitzpatrick, who now find their names occupying the top spot at 4 under. Two of only three players inside the top 10 to have carded under-par rounds on Saturday, the men who will be the last to tee off Sunday were simply terrific across their third sets of 18 holes.
Consistently finding fairways and holing clutch putts when needed, this is now the second consecutive major championship in which Fitzpatrick will be a member of the final group on Sunday. While things did not go his way at Southern Hills – nor did they for Zalatoris, either – the good vibes from his 2013 US Amateur victory at The Country Club could be exactly what push him across the finish line.
“I certainly think it gives me an edge over the others, yeah,” said Fitzpatrick of his prior success at The Country Club. “I genuinely do believe that. It’s a real, obviously, positive moment in my career. It kind of kickstarted me. To come back here and play so well again, it kind of just gives me growing confidence round by round.”
Here is a breakdown of the leaderboard heading into the final round of the 2022 US Open:
T1. Will Zalatoris, Matthew Fitzpatrick (-4): These two experienced heartbreak at the PGA Championship albeit in different fashions. While Zalatoris lost in a playoff, Fitzpatrick simply did not have his game in the final round at Southern Hills. They should both learn from this experience, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they go toe-to-toe with the reigning US Open champion, Jon Rahm, on Sunday.
“I think especially coming off the PGA it gave me a lot of belief and confidence that I belong in this situation,” said Zalatoris. “There’s a difference in thinking it and then actually being in the situation and believing it. So, I think that’s probably the biggest change. I’ve put myself in this situation a few times in my career and obviously have to go out and get it [Sunday]. “
3. Jon Rahm (-3): It was quite a rollercoaster Saturday for the typically steady Rahm. Making bogey on the easy par-5 eighth, the Spaniard turned in 1 over and slipped up once again on the par-4 13th. However, he then showed the determination of a champion and made birdies on three of his next four holes to climb into the solo lead at 5 under. A slightly pulled tee shot on the closing hole found the bunker, and when he left his second shot at his feet, a double bogey followed soon after. Dinner will taste sour, but victory is still within reach and will be even sweeter if able to successfully defend his crown.
T4. Scottie Scheffler, Adam Hadwin and Keegan Bradley (-2): A birdie-birdie finish on Thursday propelled Scheffler into a strong second round, and perhaps his par save on the 18th can do the same entering Sunday. The world No. 1 has to be frustrated knowing that he stood on the 11th tee at 6 under, but he is still right in this tournament and could join some illustrious company with a victory as he would capture the Masters and US Open in the same season.
T7. Sam Burns, Rory McIlroy and Joel Dahmen (-1): I can’t imagine many had Dahmen beating Morikawa by three strokes, but he pulled that off, and after playing his first eight holes at 4 over, he steadied the ship. Making 10 straight pars coming in, he still finds his name inside the top 10 and only three strokes behind Zalatoris and Fitzpatrick. Burns and McIlroy will be popular fan selections, and rightfully so. But what if I told you it was Dahmen who ranked inside the top 15 in both strokes gained off the tee and strokes gained approach on Saturday? He’s striking the ball considerably better than his counterparts at 1 under, and if he can steal Rory’s powers on the greens for just one round, he could also steal this national championship.
T11. Denny McCarthy, Gary Woodland, Aaron Wise and three others (+1): McCarthy began the day in a tie for 56th after making the cut on the number. Reminiscent of Webb Simpson’s third round at the PGA Championship, his 2-under 68 was the best round for the majority of the day until Zalatoris came in with a 67. McCarthy gained nearly two strokes on approach, and while his off-the-tee numbers look poor, that was due to his lack of distance as he hit 11 of 14 fairways. Accurate with the driver with his irons trending in the right direction and standing as the best putter in this field, maybe, just maybe McCarthy can shock the world.
T17. Dustin Johnson, Hideki Matsuyama, Collin Morikawa and five others (+2): Morikawa tried to warn us that his game was not in the finest shape, and when The Country Club showed its teeth, that reality finally surfaced. At one point the betting favorite, the two-time major champion experienced a slow, painful death on Saturday, ultimately signing a 7-over 77. Nothing went right for Morikawa; However, he must be thinking something in the neighborhood of 4 under Sunday could be enough to get the leaders thinking down the stretch.
T25. Jordan Spieth, Patrick Cantlay, Justin Thomas and five others (+3): Will Thomas pull another rabbit out of his hat? Seven strokes off the pace, it is the exact deficit he overcame en route to his 2022 PGA Championship victory. He will not only have to chase down the man he defeated in that playoff but also leapfrog a number of superstars. Because of that, I can’t say I am too optimistic of Thomas, Cantlay or Spieth making significant noise in the final round.
“I would feel better if I was five or six shots better,” said Thomas. “Those guys have a lot of golf left. Selfishly, for my sake, hopefully they can stay within striking distance because this is a great place to post. Hopefully, I can get hot [Sunday] and then go post a number and give them a score to look at for a couple of hours. “