Five players have reached 10-under par or better so far this week at the U.S. Open one fewer than the number who had done it over the first 116 years of what had been known as the toughest test in golf. Staying that deep into the red might not prove as easy. It never has been.
The wind at Erin Hills is finally expected to pick up for Sunday’s final round, which could put a halt to all the record-setting scoring that’s made the U.S. Open leaderboard look more like one at a regular PGA Tour stop.
On Saturday, Justin Thomas tied the record for the best round at a major by shooting 63. His score in relation to par 9 under was a U.S. Open record, and he finished the day at 11 under. And yet, Thomas won’t even walk to the first tee box Sunday with the lead. Brian Harman finished the day at 12 under, then surmised, “I’d have about a 10-shot lead in most Opens.”
This isn’t like most Opens. Wind was supposed to be one of the main defenses at Erin Hills, which is the longest U.S. Open course in history but also has the widest fairways the tournament has seen. But the wind hasn’t kicked up over three rounds, and overnight rains have kept things soft, allowing shots to hit the green and hold, the way Thomas’ 3-wood did from 310 yards out on the 18th hole. It led to an eagle to close out his 63.
Tommy Fleetwood (11), Brooks Koepka (11) and Rickie Fowler (10) were also in the double-digit club. Fowler was among those who wouldn’t mind seeing the conditions toughen up for the final 18 holes. It would be nice to see the course dry out a little bit and just make it to where it’s going to take a quality round of golf,” he said.
Here’s a look at the other six players who reached double digits, and what happened to them once they got there:
GIL MORGAN, 1992 U.S. OPEN, PEBBLE BEACH
Morgan was at 9-under 135 after two rounds and became the first player to reach 10-under par in the U.S. Open with a 30-foot birdie putt on the third hole of the third round. And he wasn’t through. He made two more birdies, including one on the par-3 seventh that put him at 12 under.
At that point, he was leading by seven shots. And then Morgan came undone. He dropped nine shots over the next seven holes three double bogeys, three bogeys and one par. Morgan shot 77 and, remarkably, still had the lead at 4-under 212. He shot 81 the next day in a blustery wind. Tom Kite won his only major.
TIGER WOODS, 2000 U.S. OPEN, PEBBLE BEACH
As dominant as Woods was, he never reached 10-under par until the final round. He still built a six-shot lead through 36 holes, despite hitting his tee shot into the ocean on the 18th hole and salvaging bogey. What slowed him on Saturday was a triple bogey on the third hole, but conditions were so tough that Woods shot even-par 71 and still increased his lead to 10 shots.
No one had a chance. Woods made four birdies against no bogeys in the final round for a 67 and a 15-shot victory. He finished at 12-under 272, the first player to complete a U.S. Open double digits under par.
JIM FURYK, 2003 U.S. OPEN, OLYMPIA FIELDS
Furyk reached 10-under 200 with a 67 in the third round at Olympia Fields, giving him a three-shot lead over Stephen Leaney of Australia. Furyk was never seriously challenged in the final round, and he wound up winning by three shots and matching what was then the U.S. Open record at 272.
The course had been softened by rain earlier in the week, and it finally played the way the USGA wanted in the final round. Furyk closed with a 72. What dropped him under double digits were two bogeys that didn’t really matter. He failed to get up-and-down from behind the 17th green, and then he three-putted from 40 feet on the final hole to finish at 8-under 272.
RICKY BARNES, 2009 U.S. OPEN, BETHPAGE:
The tournament was such a slog that it didn’t finish 72 holes until Monday. The soft Black Course allowed players to take dead aim, and Barnes opened with rounds of 67 and 65. And he kept right on going early in the third round, rolling in a 25-foot eagle putt on the par-5 fourth hole to reach 11-under par.
He had a six-shot lead at the turn but hit only three fairways on the nine and missed a 4-foot par putt on the 18th for a 70. He was at 8 under at the end of the day, and never got back to double digits. He didn’t win, either, closing with a 76 to finish at 2-under 278, two behind Lucas Glover.
RORY MCILROY, 2011, CONGRESSIONAL
Coming in off a collapse at the Masters a few months earlier, McIlroy’s assault on double digits began at rain-softened Congressional on Friday and never let up. He became the first player to reach 13 under at the U.S. Open in the second round, but double-bogeyed 18 to close at 11 under and with a six-shot lead.
A mere hiccup. On Saturday, he got to 14 under, then on Sunday, he widened the gap versus par to 16 under. McIlroy finished eight shots ahead of Jason Day, whose score of 8-under 276 would have been enough to win 26 of the previous 30 U.S. Opens.
MARTIN KAYMER, 2014, PINEHURST NO. 2
Kaymer got the good end of the draw when rain arrived at Pinehurst No. 2, and he opened with rounds of 65-65 to reach 10-under 130 and build a six-shot lead going into the weekend. The tournament was never really in doubt after that, though the wind arrived and Kaymer couldn’t maintain the pace.
He rolled a long birdie putt off the sixth green and made bogey, and he dropped two more shots with three-putt bogeys. He shot 72 in the third round for an 8-under 202. Kaymer made it back to 10 under on the back nine Sunday, but a late bogey for a 69 meant he would finish at 9-under 271 for an eight-shot victory.