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Postcard from Oakmont, Scene of a Great Bearded Mystery

Photo: Getty Images

Shane Lowry has a two-shot lead heading into the final day of the 116th U.S. Open at Oakmont.

After 36 holes at the British Open last year, who would you have picked as low Johnson, Dustin or Zach?

Dustin was coming off his one-shot loss to Jordan Spieth in the U.S. Open, and had shot rounds of 65 and 69 on the Old Course to take a one-shot lead. Talk about bouncing back. Meanwhile steady Zach Johnson was three shots behind. When the playoff was over on that dank Monday, ZJ, of course, was the man hoisting the claret jug. DJ had played himself into oblivion.

And now, heading into the final day -- we hope! -- of this U.S. Open that is painfully arrhythmic, a new question arises: who will be the low beard?

Well, let's start with a less challenging question. Who has the most impressive beard among the many bearded contenders?

The clear winner in this category is Shane Lowry, the big Irishman who stood atop the leaderboard at five under when darkness halted play Saturday night at 8:50. He is the leader in the Best Beard category, too. Take him out of his black tech-fabric golf shirt he wore on Saturday and put him in one of those itchy thick white sweaters, and you could imagine him in the Captain Quint role in a remake of "Jaws." It's reddish, full, approaching unkempt. It's a beard that you're more likely to see at a Phish concert than at the Oakmont Country Club.

But there are so many other bearded contenders: Lee Westwood, Sergio Garcia, Dustin Johnson, Jason Day (kind of), Scott Piercy.

The last bearded winner of the U.S. Open was also from Ireland (northern division) and that was Graeme McDowell. You wouldn't call it a full-on beard, but it was something more than stubble. Day's is glorified stubble. He'd be a great U.S. Open winner, but whether he would truly be considered a bearded U.S. Open winner is a question that will have to be left to the beard police.

As for the last bearded Open winner before Graeme McDowell, the USGA research department was rifling through internet images to try to answer this vexing question late on Saturday night. Horace Rawlins, 1895? No. James Foulis, 1896? No. (Nice 'stache, though.) Joe Floyd, 1897? The same.

Darkness fell on the great Oakmont links with the question still being researched.

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