OAKMONT, Pa. – After a soggy start to the 116th U.S. Open, we’re all caught up at and ready to roll for the final round. Irishman Shane Lowry leads the field by four shots over Dustin Johnson and unheralded Andrew Landry, who is playing his first major. Lee Westwood and Sergio Garcia are both inside the top seven and no one in the top eight of the leaderboard has won a major.
So, with the scene set, our team at Oakmont predicts who will win.
Rex Hoggard: Even four strokes back with 18 holes remaining, Dustin Johnson still looms over the U.S. Open. Although he faded with a third-round 71, the bomber has been in a class by himself this week tee-to-green. He’s first in the field in driving distance (317 yard average), 13th in fairways hit (28 of 42) and second in greens in regulation (41 of 54). While his inability to convert clutch birdie attempts has kept him from running away with this championship, he maintians that he’s pleased with his putting. So if the putts start to drop, and that’s always a big "if" when it comes to DJ, that four-stroke deficit could vanish quickly.
Randall Mell: Four shots can be made up in the blink of an eye at Oakmont. We saw that Saturday, when Dustin Johnson double bogeyed the third hole a moment after Lee Westwood holed out for eagle at the fifth. Westwood vaulted from four behind into a tie with Johnson. Still, a four-shot lead on a Sunday at Oakmont could also seem insurmountable if a guy’s hitting a lot of fairways and greens. Shane Lowry was that guy in the third round. I’ll take my chances with Lowry, the four-shot cushion and the momentum he created.
Ryan Lavner: If ever Dustin Johnson is going to break through and win his first major, this might be the perfect opportunity. Andrew Landry’s 40-foot birdie putt on the 18th green Sunday morning knocked Johnson out of the final group with Shane Lowry. Given his propensity for final-round meltdowns, that might be a good thing. Though he’s tied for second, four shots back, the pressure will be off Johnson. He’s not expected to win and he could thrive as a pursuer rather than a frontrunner. If he can hole some putts (he’s ranked 45th in putting, with plenty of burned lips), than this might finally be his day in the sun.
Jay Coffin: This feels like Shane Lowry’s day. I know a four-shot lead isn’t much at a U.S. Open, it could vanish in one hole, but anyone good enough to lead by four after 54 holes is good enough to hold on an win. Plus, it’s not like he has a boatload of major stalwarts hot on his trail. Dustin Johnson, clearly, is a world-class player, but until he proves he can win on the game’s biggest stages I’m more comfortable picking the man ahead, particularly when he hasn’t shot anything over par yet (68-70-65). All I ask is that we don’t have an 18-hole Monday playoff.
Joe Posnanski: I think Lowry wrapped up the golf tournament with his two birdies Sunday morning. One: He’s a solid pro who does not seem likely to blow up, which is what would be required at this point. Two: He doesn’t have to sleep with the lead. He’s already done that and came out as strong as ever. Three: The rain turned Oakmont into a strange half-U.S. Open course. It’s obviously difficult — only six players are under par. But it’s not the torture chamber that everyone seemed to expect early in the week. And so, it’s unlikely that anyone can go get Lowry by shooting 63 like Johnny Miller did. But it’s even more unlikely that Lowry will shoot 80.