Punch Shot: Who will win the U.S. Open?

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UNIVERSITY PLACE, Wash. – There's plenty to ponder with three rounds of the U.S Open in the books.

Can Jordan Spieth win his second straight major? Can Jason Day author the story of the year by winning his first Big One while battling vertigo? Can Dustin Johnson avenge his past near-misses? Is Branden Grace ready to break though on the big stage? Or will it be someone outside the four co-leaders who crashes the party?

Our writers make their picks for the final round at Chambers Bay:

By RYAN LAVNER

Jordan Spieth

Jordan Spieth’s greatest strength is that he has no weaknesses. He’s an above-average driver. He’s a supreme iron player. And he’s the best putter on the planet.

Sure, he took 32 swipes Saturday and has eight three-putts this week, but who would you rather trust with a must-make 5-footer in the finalround of a major: Dustin Johnson, who has a history of major-championship miscues; Jason Day, who was so woozy Saturday that he didn’t speak with the assembled media; and Branden Grace, who before this week didn’t have a top-15 in a major.

Spieth hasn’t been at his best this week, but Chambers Bay is the perfect fit for his game – the fairways are accommodating, and his short game can shine around the large, undulating greens.

The 21-year-old stands out on a ’board littered with mentally fragile players. With unwavering confidence, Spieth will take another step toward history Sunday.


By REX HOGGARD

Jason Day

Day's caddie, Colin Swatton, compared his performance on Saturday at Chambers Bay to Tiger Woods’ victory at the 2008 U.S. Open on a broken leg, and if the Australian is to finally win his first major on Sunday, it will take another heroic performance in Round 4.

But if anyone in the field has proven to have the ability to negotiate an extremely demanding Chambers Bay layout as well as benign positional vertigo, which Day was diagnosed with after collapsing at the end of his second round on Friday, it is the 27 year old.

Hampered by injuries throughout his career, from thumb and back ailments last year to an ankle problem in 2013, Day has still become one of the game’s brightest stars with three PGA Tour titles and numerous brushes at major championships.

Similarly, he withstood multiple bouts with vertigo on Saturday on his way to a third-round 68 which included a closing nine of 31 to claim a share of the lead and a spot in the Sunday’s final pairing.

He will need an equally-inspired performance on Sunday, but after so many near misses and medical issues, Day is poised to end his title drought in style.


By JAY COFFIN

Jordan Spieth

Of the top 14 players on the leaderboard only two (Jordan Spieth, Louis Oosthuizen) have won a major championship. Give me the one who has won most recently and is tied at the top. Give me Spieth.

He did not play well Saturday and still managed to shoot 71 and remained tied for the lead. It’s hard to believe he’ll play poorly in this type of pressure-cooker environment for a second consecutive day with so much on the line. He’s a gamer, he understands the significance of this moment and he has experiences to draw upon from his Masters victory just two short months ago.

With Rory McIlroy struggling the past month, Spieth is the best player in the game right now. He has the swagger, he has the game and he has an uncanny ability to get the ball in the hole when he needs to most.

Spieth may not win, but he won’t give it away either. I’ll take my chances with him down the stretch.


By WILL GRAY

Dustin Johnson

Dustin Johnson will leave Chambers Bay with the U.S. Open trophy – even if, in the event of a playoff, he has to wait until Monday to claim it.

I predicted Jordan Spieth to triumph when the week began, but I’m calling an audible. For my money, DJ is playing the best of the quartet of co-leaders from which a winner is likely to emerge, and he successfully bounced back from a mediocre close to his second round. The bad stuff – the wobbly finish that Spieth just endured during his third round – is already behind Johnson.

Johnson has always been one of the world’s longest drivers, but this week he is also one of the best. After finding each of the 14 fairways during a third-round 70, it’s clear that his swing remains grooved heading into Sunday’s pressure-cooker, where his deft touch around the greens will again prove helpful. He has been here before – whether at Pebble Beach, Whistling Straits or Royal St. George’s – but he now appears strong enough to handle the elements and finally claim his maiden major.