The third round of the 120th U.S. Open is in the books, and we’ve got some separation at the top of the leaderboard with Matthew Wolff (-5) and Bryson DeChambeau (-3) using Saturday to break out into their own tier with 18 holes left of action remaining. Wolff began his day four strokes off the lead and ended it with a two-stroke lead in the most impressive outing of the afternoon.
Wolff’s 5-under 65 tied for the best 18-hole score of the week at Winged Foot as he sliced through a star-studded leaderboard and perfectly positioned himself to win his first major championship on Sunday. His 54-hole score of 205 matches the lowest during a U.S. Open at Winged Foot in 36 years.
While Wolff may have mostly been unaffected, Winged Foot has a way of humbling even the hottest of golfers, which may come to haunt him and DeChambeau on Sunday. We saw it take down 36-hole leader Patrick Reed, who dropped to T8 with a third-round 76 to enter Sunday trailing by seven. He’s among the biggest names still in contention but looking to play catch-up, some despite impressive rounds of their own on Saturday.
1. Matthew Wolff (-5): Fairways hit are usually a meaningful stat. For Wolff, at least on Saturday, it was not. He hit just 2 of 14 fairways on the day and still carded a 65 to lead the field. The way he strikes it and the way he scrambles so effortlessly portends well for him closing this thing out with some hardware on Sunday, which would make him the first player to win in his U.S. Open debut since Francis Ouimet did it … 107 years ago tomorrow. Wolff would also be the youngest U.S. Open winner since Bobby Jones in 1923.
2. Bryson DeChambeau (-3): Huge day, huge finish, huge golfer. DeChambeau started his day bogey-bogey but only had one other bogey — on No. 18 — the rest of his day. He played with total control and leveraged his length masterfully. Birdies on 16 and 17, despite the final bogey, should send him to Sunday feeling confident as ever that he can close this and steal it from Wolff. And he can do just that.
3. Louis Oosthuizen (-1): Second under-par round of the week for Oosthuizen, who finished with a 2-under 68, but this was his most complete round. Led the field in greens in regulation and was top five in strokes gained putting on the day. Pair of bogeys on the back sullied what was otherwise a brilliant outing.
T4. Xander Schauffele, Hideki Matsuyama, Harris English (E): Can the comeback kid do it again? Schauffele has trailed by two strokes or more entering the final round of all four of his wins on the PGA Tour. Five strokes feels like 50 at Winged Foot, but he had some stretches Saturday — including a 4 under stretch over four holes — that showed he’s got a run in him. This trio has played great golf all week, and it wouldn’t surprise me if the winner came from this bunch on Sunday should Wolff in particular falter.
7. Rory McIlroy (+1): After a second-round 76 on Friday, McIlroy’s 68 — with only one bogey on the day and a barrage of pars — was a huge improvement. Most importantly, he didn’t shoot himself out of the tournament. For the second time this week, he gained multiple strokes on the field putting. It’s going to take a near-perfect round Sunday from him to climb back into this, but if anyone has the goods to tackle this course with force for 18 holes, it’s him.
T8. Zach Johnson and two others (+2): Johnson’s best round of the week and his first under-par round of the week has him hovering in the thick of things headed to Sunday. He started his round with a par on No. 1 and a bogey on No. 2 then played the remaining 16 at 3 under with nine consecutive pars to close his day. Johnson was able to scramble well and saved himself time and again with his putter, gaining 3.63 strokes — second among the field.
T11. Alex Noren, Patrick Reed and four others (+3): The best early-round score of the day (until his fellow Oklahoma State brethren Wolff one-upped him), Noren dealt with some strong winds on the course early and battled through it with one weapon: his putter. He gained a massive 6.35 strokes on the field putting in Round 3 that led the field by more than two strokes. His 24 total putts were the fewest any golfer has taken in a single round all week, an advantage he’s relied on all week that could be particularly useful as he closes things out Sunday. As for Reed, it was a humbling 18 holes in which he not only lost the lead but now finds himself eight strokes off it.
T17. Justin Thomas and three others (+4): After an opening-round 65, Thomas has played the last 36 holes at 9 over, including a week-worst 6 over 76 for him Saturday. Couldn’t hit fairways and was scrambling all day to save par, often with little success.