As heavy winds in Brookline wreaked havoc across the field, the picture at the top of the leaderboard was blown wide-open, with Will Zalatoris and Matt Fitzpatrick sharing the lead at four-under par heading into Sunday’s deciding round.
Blustery conditions — a subject in every post-round news conference — contributed to an array of helter-skelter scorecards, with a mere 10 of the 64-man field scoring at least par, and only seven carding under. It means just four strokes separate the leading duo from Nick Hardy in 10th place.
Zalatoris ready to avenge major heartbreak
Ranked 14th in the world, Zalatoris starred with a round-best 67. The American has come agonizingly close in recent years, missing out on the Masters by a stroke in 2021 before suffering a playoff defeat to Justin Thomas at the PGA Championship in May.
Having already labeled The Country Club course as the hardest he’d ever played regardless of the weather, Zalatoris revealed conditions were so “brutal” he didn’t aim shots at any of the hole’s flags.
Now 18 shots from glory, the 25-year-old believes he has what it takes to get over the line.
“Coming off the PGA [Championship] it gave me a lot of belief and confidence that I belong in this situation,” Zalatoris told reporters.
“There’s a difference in thinking it, and then actually being in the situation and believing it … I’ve put myself in this situation a few times in my career, and obviously have to go out and get it tomorrow.”
Fitzpatrick ready to repeat feat
World number 18 Fitzpatrick carded a two-under 68 to join Zalatoris at the summit. Though the Englishman is also without a major to his name, he has experience of winning at The Country Club, having won the US Amateur in Brookline in 2013.
He has since racked up seven European Tour wins, but admitted his career would feel “incomplete” if he retired without tasting major glory.
“I genuinely would be disappointed if I didn’t,” Fitzpatrick told reporters.
“I definitely feel like I have much more of a chance now to win a major than I ever have done in my career.”
Sunday’s deciding round is set to begin at 8:49 a.m. ET, with pairs’ tee off times staggered in ascending order up the leaderboard. Fitzpatrick and Zalatoris will be the last duo to tee off at around 2:45 p.m. ET.
Windy woes for Rahm and Scheffler
Rahm, the first Spaniard to win the US Open with victory at Torrey Pines in 2021, was left with the paradoxical feeling of being both “very content” with his performance and ruing a late collapse.
Discussing the blustery conditions, the 27-year-old said he would “run to the clubhouse” if offered a one-over par to skip the last five holes.
“It’s infuriating in a sense to finish that way with how good I played those holes,” Rahm told reporters.
“I have 18 holes, and I’m only one shot back. That’s the important thing.”
Scheffler also chose to adopt an upbeat mood despite the effect of the elements on his round. Enjoying a spectacular 2022 with victory at the Masters and three further PGA Tour wins, the 25-year-old showed his class to steady the ship after a terrifying stretch, closing with three pars and a birdie.
“That little golf ball is just getting thrown around all over the place,” Scheffler told reporters, before discussing what a win come Sunday would mean to him.
“If I do, it’s going to be really fun. If I don’t, life will go on,” he said. “Hopefully this won’t be my last US Open, but you never know. Can’t take anything for granted in this life.
“So I’m going to approach tomorrow the way I always do and just go out there and try and do my best and see what happens after that.”