ERIN, Wis. — At the end of 54 holes, we might not have a star-studded leaderboard at the 2017 U.S. Open, but at least we have one rife with possibilities. There are 13 players at or within five strokes of the lead after three rounds at Erin Hills with everyone chasing leader Brian Harman, who is 12 under.
“Yeah, 12-under, I’d have about a ten-shot lead in most Opens,” said Harman after shooting a 5-under 67 on Saturday. “I’m more motivated by the fact that I’ve made a plan and I’ve stuck to the plan so far. Obviously, I have no idea what tomorrow holds, but I’m more motivated by the way that I’m striking the ball. It’s the best I’ve struck the ball in a long time. And my short game is pretty good. I’ve been putting it pretty good. So I’m excited about all those things.”
But is he playing well enough to win a U.S. Open? The former Georgia Bulldog is a terrific player with wins in his career at the John Deere Classic and Wells Fargo Championship. But Brian Harman: U.S. Open champ? I’m not willing to step out on that limb yet.
Harman has hit 37-of-42 fairways and 42-of-54 greens in regulation and made a total of two (!) bogeys this week (none on the back nine). If he wins on Sunday, he’ll have earned it. And he’ll have done so with some other players without a major looking to track down their first. Let’s take a look at who has the best chance of winning the 117th U.S. Open.
Rickie Fowler (-10): This is still Fowler’s tournament to lose. He stumbled a bit on Saturday but still managed to slap together a pair of 34s for a 68 overall. A two-shot lead on this course with this board is basically nothing, and Fowler has shown in the past that he’s a closer (2015 Players Championship, 2016 Scottish Open). However, he’s also never done at this level. Odds: 50 percent
Tommy Fleetwood (-11): The Englishman is a bit of an unknown, but he’s a fine player. If you’re looking at whether he can roll with the big dogs at a major, look no further than the 2017 Abu Dhabi Championship. Fleetwood shot a 67 to beat none other than Dustin Johnson by one stroke. Odds: 40 percent
Justin Thomas (-11): Thomas is a dude., and if he backs it up on Sunday with his first major championship, it will be even more historically relevant. Thomas is tops of everybody on this board in Round 4 scoring average at 68.7, but I don’t think he wins. Coming down off the emotional high of a 63 in a major is a big ask. I do think he mixes it up on the front nine before fading a bit late. Odds: 30 percent
Brooks Koepka (-11): The American stud has been super steady all week with rounds of 67,70, 68. He said on Saturday he’ll be nervous on Sunday but not Ryder Cup nervous. “I feel really confident, driving the ball well, putting it well,” said Koepka. “I feel probably a lot more comfortable than I have probably in the past. I would say between putting myself in contention before, I don’t know, I feel like U.S. Open we do pretty well. In the PGA we seem to be up there every year. But the Ryder Cup helps. It’s kind of simple. I think that’s probably the most amount of pressure I’ve ever played in. When you look at that and just kind of build off the experiences out there.” Odds: 30 percent
Brian Harman (-12): Harman has zero top 20s at major championships. He’s a classic third round leader who fades. Shane Lowry led this tournament by four after 54 holes last year. Dustin Johnson dusted him. I can’t see Harman taking this home (also, I’m trying to ignore the fact that he’s No. 9 on the PGA Tour in Round 4 scoring average at 69.3). Odds of winning: 15 percent
Si Woo Kim (-9): Kim has been just grinding out great scores while the attention has been on everyone else. He proved at The Players Championship that he’s scared of no man, but wondering if Kim to go Players and U.S. Open back-to-back seems like a big ask for an inexperienced guy. Odds: 10 percent
Patrick Reed (-8): Reed rocked his Ryder Cup USA pants on Saturday, which was amazing even though his 65 got drowned in Lake Michigan by Thomas’ 63. “Really haven’t had much U.S. Open pressure considering how I teed off at 10:49, and the leaders might be through 4,” said Reed of his 65. “But to me, it’s going to basically all be kind of the same. Just go out there and play my game plan, stick to what I know how to do and just go play some golf. If I continue playing well and make some putts here and there, hopefully late tomorrow with a couple of stretches coming down, we have a chance to win a golf tournament.” He might, but he also (incredibly) doesn’t have a top 10 at a major yet. Odds: 10 percent
Russell Henley and Charley Hoffman (-8): For me to consider these two favorites, they’d have to be a bit farther up the leaderboard. Is Hoffman going to shoot a 66 to overcome Fowler, Thomas and Koepka and post a win on Sunday at a U.S. Open? That seems unlikely. Is Henley? That seems even more unlikely. I really like these two guys, and they’re excellent players, but they’re not going to win this U.S. Open. Odds: 5 percent
Enjoy the festivities on Sunday.