SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y. – Want to know how this suddenly crazy and unpredictable U.S. Open might end Sunday afternoon? Look out below!
On Saturday morning Daniel Berger and Tony Finau were tied for 45th place, 11 shots behind Dustin Johnson, who had absolutely coasted through 36 holes. Berger teed off at 10:13 a.m., Finau at 10:57. No one paid them any mind. It seemed like a good time to have brunch or maybe take your kids to a little league game. But then a funny thing happened: Berger and Finau burned through Shinnecock in 66 shots apiece. They tore it up! Both guys were wrapped before Johnson had finished his warm-up. Then something even crazier happened: after two dominant days where he looked ready to run away with the trophy, DJ staggered to a front-nine 41. And then the greens baked. Other players cracked. In what felt like a matter of minutes, the U.S. Open descended into chaos. Scores kept rising, and Berger and Finau, presumably watching from barcaloungers in their respective rental homes, just kept climbing those big white boards. When the dust settled, they were tied for the lead. First place! From 11 back! Afterthoughts to title contenders in 18 holes flat.
“Going into today, I needed something special to happen to even have an outside chance. I’m really happy with where I’m at,” Finau said. That was long before he realized he’d be in the final pairing.
“I think to get out there early and play a good round really was to my benefit,” added Berger.
Oh, it was beneficial all right. Those quotes came early in the afternoon, before things went bananas. After hardly getting a whiff of screen time all week, Berger and Finau will be front and center on Fox on Sunday afternoon.
And the rest of us? Be ready for anything, including history. On Saturday, Shinnecock crept close to the edge of playability. (Some players griped that it in fact crossed the line.) Sunday’s forecast calls for similarly bright and breezy conditions. Berger or Finau might win. So could Kiradech Aphibarnrat or Patrick Reed (currently three back). Or Justin Thomas or Bryson DeChambeau (five back). Or heck, why not Cameron Wilson or Mickey DeMorat? (Eleven back, same as Berger and Finau Saturday morning.)
You may be familiar with the biggest final-round comeback in U.S. Open history: Arnold Palmer, who in 1960 erased a seven-shot deficit by shooting 65 to win at Cherry Hills. It’s one of the most revered records in golf history, and it was a round that stamped Arnie’s legacy.
But Sunday at Shinnecok maybe – just maybe – Arnie’s record will be challenged. “I think more than six is going to be too far back, but I do think you can make five or six shots up on this golf course,” Finau said before he knew he would wipe out an 11-shot gap in Round 3. But even if Finau is right and a six-shot difference is the line, it would still bring 29 players into final-round contention.
And if Finau or Berger raise the trophy on Sunday, they would tie the record for largest 36-hole rally, currently held by Lou Graham, who was 11 back through 36 at Medinah in 1975. They’ll tee off in the very last group, fittingly alongside one another. Strap into your couches.