BROOKLINE, Mass. – There was drama at this US Open from the moment the players arrived on the property. Before I started, it wasn’t about golf. It was about the state of golf. Now it’s all about golf, with a leaderboard made up of stars, newcomers and a few contenders.
So what’s going on on Sunday? Our experts take their best shots.
Mark Schlabach: Before he struggled on the back nine on Saturday, I would have said Scottie Scheffler. He is the No. 1 player in the world and has earned more than any other player on tour this season. His game has slipped a bit recently, but what happened on a five-hole streak on Saturday — when he squandered a 2-stroke lead and returned five strokes — was quite startling. McIlroy is fifth on the PGA Tour in final round scoring average. He shot 62 goals Sunday last week in a victory at the RBC Canadian Open, 68 in the final round of the PGA Championship and 64 Sunday at the Masters.
Michael Collins: Jon Rahm still believes he is world No. 1. He’s the defending champ and wants to do what Rory did last week, but in an even stronger field – remind them who’s the best. And when he starts to “feel” he’s going to make loooong putts because that’s what he does.
Kevin Van Valkenburg: Rahm. It hasn’t been the season we all thought it could be for Rahm, but he still has the most complete game of these three. The putter heats up — finally. Scheffler and McIlroy can get streaky, and that includes doing a bunch of bogeys when things start to go wrong. Rahm feels like he’s learned to channel his anger into extreme focus. If Will Zalatoris and Matt Fitzpatrick slip, I think Rahm walks away with back-to-back US Opens.
Paulo Uggetti: Rahm is the sure answer here, but since my colleagues have explained why, I’ll attempt to defend McIlroy. It’s been a week of ups and downs for the face of the PGA Tour, but the fact that he’s still only 3 shots away after taking several bad shots makes me think he doesn’t have it all yet. completely finished. If nothing else, the 2011 US Open champion is sure to make it interesting.
There are also a bunch of players in the mix looking for that first major title. Who has the best shot to get it?
Schlabach: I was so impressed with Fitzpatrick’s development this year. He is playing with much more confidence and is more than capable of winning on Sunday. He won the 2013 US Amateur at The Country, so he obviously loves the place. He finished 14th at the Masters and fifth at the PGA Championship. He doesn’t hit the ball very far, but he hits it straight and is excellent on and around the green.
Collins: Fitzpatrick. Time will make him feel at home. He has already won here. He will also understand that it doesn’t take perfect golf to win. He’s a patient player, and that’s what wins tournaments like this in really tough conditions.
Van Valkenburg: Zalatoris. He was my pick at the start of the week, and I’m sticking with him, although I was really impressed with Fitzpatrick. Zalatoris has one obvious weakness – his putt – but he never seems to be afraid of the moment with his ball shot.
Uggetti: Zalatoris feels he is due. The guy has come this close more than once now and he has the game to play in tough conditions. Putting looks – er, does – better, and that may be enough to finally put him over the top.
Which leaderboard name do you trust the least?
Schlabach: Nick Hardy, who played at Illinois, has a very bright future in golf. He’s not quite ready for this step. The qualifier was a great story, but he returned 3 blows on Saturday, and he will probably return a few more on Sunday.
Collins: Adam Hadvin. Toronto is my favorite city. But even in the Canadian climate, I don’t trust a Canadian to win the US Open this year. Sorry to all my Tim Horton buddies.
Van Valkenburg: Apologies Canada, but my answer is Adam Hadwin. That would be a cool story, but I don’t see it.
Uggetti: Sorry not sorry for the greater Boston area, but Keegan Bradley fails the storybook ending. At least he had the euphoric March 18 on Saturday, which he called one of the greatest moments of his life. How do you top that?
The Country Club really showed its teeth on Saturday. What’s that in mind, what’s the winning score?
Schlabach: I’d be surprised if Zalatoris, Fitzpatrick and Rahm all exploded on Sunday, so I’ll go with 6 cents. Conditions were pretty tricky on Saturday as the wind was blowing and the greens were slippery. The forecast calls for high temperatures below 60 degrees on Sunday. It will be more like the Open Championship.
Collins: I think 2 cents wins. The conditions will be the toughest they have been all week. Cold temperatures make it so much harder to judge how far a ball will fly out of the rough. With that in mind, the man with the fewest battle scars will win.
Van Valkenburg: I’m leaving with 5 cents. It will be cold on Sunday. We may not see the wind we saw on Saturday, but the ball is not going to fly. There will be potential to move up the rankings like Justin Thomas did at the PGA Championship, but I think 68 might be the best score there. Anyone 1 cent or better is in.
Uggetti: Give me a winning round of par par Sunday from one of the two guys at 4 under. It will be colder and the wind might not let up. The course is getting browner and browner and there’s a good chance we’ll continue to see some of the carnage we saw late on Saturday.
Okay so who wins?
Schlabach: I picked Shane Lowry to win, and the Irishman missed the cut. I feel like Zalatoris has finally made it. He’s been one of the best players in the world since finishing second at the 2021 Masters. He’s knocked on every major’s door, and now is his time (as long as his putter holds up).
Collins: Jon Rahm defends his title.
Van Valkenburg: Zalatoris. We get flimsy putts on the stretch, but also irons that are absolutely flagged. McIlroy will make a brief run that will send the Country Club into a frenzy, but ultimately Zalatoris pinches Rahm to win his first major.
Uggetti: I’m going with Fitzpatrick if only for some variety and the neat storyline of his US Amateur victory in 2013 with a US Open win at the same venue nine years later. He even lives in the same house!