2017 U.S. Open: Set up for greatest finish ever?

ERIN, Wisconsin — There is no obvious place to start with how ridiculous the 117th U.S. Open is playing out, so let’s begin with Justin Thomas’ 18th hole on Saturday.

First he ripped a 331-yard drive. Then a 302-yard 3-wood … to 10 feet from the hole. One putt later he had the ball in the hole, completing the 667-yard par 5 in just three shots, an eagle.

An eagle that completed a 9-under 63, the lowest score to par in the history of this tournament.

So there’s that.

There’s also this: Only twice in tournament history has anyone gone lower than where Thomas sits now at 11-under. Tiger Woods did it in 2000 when he won by 15 strokes. And Rory McIlroy did it in 2011 when he won by eight.

In other words, going really low in the U.S. Open just doesn’t happen, so when you do, you win and you win big.

Thomas’ lead heading into Sunday’s final round? He actually trails Brian Harman by 1. And if not for a meltdown on 18 by Tommy Fleetwood, Thomas wouldn’t have even been in the final group on Sunday.

Brian Harman putts in front of a not-so-who’s-who of a leaderboard at the U.S. Open. (AP)

Brian Harman? Tommy Fleetwood? Justin Thomas?

If the names atop the leaderboard were Spieth and Johnson and McIlroy and Mickelson, Sunday’s final round would be touted as potentially the greatest finish in U.S. Open history. Instead, it’s Fleetwood and Harman and Brooks Koepka and Rickie Fowler, so it’s, well, is it still potentially the greatest finish in U.S. Open history?

Does it matter that Spieth is 4-over? Or that Johnson and McIlory went home Friday after missing the cut? Or that Mickelson never made it to Erin Hills, opting instead to attend his daughter’s high school graduation?

Fireworks are fireworks regardless of who sets them off, right? And there were some ridiculous fireworks on Saturday.

Thomas drained a putt on No. 5 which he literally started it in the wrong direction, and that, he said, wasn’t even his best shot of the day. The 3-wood on 18 was.


Patrick Reed showed up in his Ryder Cup pants, fired a 7-under 65, at that point tied for the low round of the tournament, and he trails by 4 shots.

And if you’re looking for the truly ridiculous, Koepka finished at 11-under and he wasn’t even the low golfer wearing pink on Saturday. Neither was Thomas. (That distinction goes to Harman, with Fleetwood, Thomas and Koepka in a four-way tie for second.)

Traditionalists will poo-poo the ease with which Erin Hills has treated the field this week. “U.S. Opens aren’t supposed to be played under par!” they’ll scream right before telling the neighbor kids to get off their lawns. Thing is, despite all the numbers deep into the red, the scoring average is actually above par. And the three top players in the world did miss the cut, something that’s never happened at a major since world rankings came into place in 1986.

So yeah, outside of Fowler, we’re left with a lack of star power, and the top of the leaderboard is completely devoid of anyone who’s actually won a major. (You need to go all the way down to Louis Oosthuizen at T17 to find one of those.)

What we’re left with are 12 players within 5 shots of the leader and a forecast calling for blustery conditions on Sunday, opening up the possibility for Erin Hills to bite back a little bit.

It isn’t Tiger in 2000 or Rory in 2011, but really, which would you prefer?

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