US Open Golf 2012: A Look Ahead to the Final Round

Carlos TorresContributor IJune 17, 2012

US Open Golf 2012: A Look Ahead to the Final Round

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    The 112th U.S. Open comes to a close today from the Lake Course at the Olympic Club in San Francisco.

    The way it has developed so far promises to deliver world-class fireworks well ahead of the Fourth of July and give us a finish for the ages.

    Jim Furyk and Graeme McDowell, two former U.S. Open champions, are the co-leaders and both will be defending that lead as if it were the last item available on earth.

    If anyone besides them is going to win, the most likely scenario will be that they will have to catch them instead of waiting for their collapse .

    This makes it an interesting proposition to watch the "Battle of Attrition" that has become this U.S. Open.

    For the players chasing the leaders, this is their shot at a major. They have to have a go-get-it attitude,  which is how champions are made.

    Let's take a look at several things you should look for in today's final round.

Coverage Information

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    Sunday's final round promises to come down to the final hole. You have to make sure you don't miss it.

    In case you don't have the full information on the TV schedule or links to the specific pages on usopen.com to catch the on-line action, you can find it below.

    Full Coverage Information

    Live Broadcast TV NBC 1:00-7:00 p.m. PT

    Live Video of Holes 8 and 18
    (Web, iPhone, Android)

    Video 1:00-7:00 p.m. PT
    Radio (Web, iPhone, Android) Radio 1:00-7:00 p.m. PT
    PlayTracker (Web) PlayTracker 8:00 a.m. - 8:00 p.m. PT
    Photos (Web) Photos 8:00 a.m. - 8:00 p.m. PT

Final Score

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    A year after Rory McIlroy posted the lowest U.S. Open score ever—16-under 268—while dissecting with surgeon-like precision a Congressional Country Club course already softened by rain, only two players are under par after three rounds at Olympic’s Lake Course.

    The Olympic Course has earned the nickname of "The Graveyard of Champions," and we saw already how defending champion McIlroy, Masters champ Bubba Watson and the world's No. 1 Luke Donald never made it to the weekend.

    And in Round 3, Tiger Woods posted his highest score ever in a round of a major (75) after having led or shared the lead.

    While the final score shouldn't rival the seven-over par posted in 1955 when the U.S. Open was held here for the first time, it shouldn't go lower than where they are now.

    It will be interesting to see the winner's final score. It should resemble the even-par posted by the winner here in 1998.

Possibility of a Monday Playoff

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    After Round 3, the possibility of an 18-hole playoff on Monday became extremely real.

    Saturday was expected to be Tiger Woods' party. He was supposed to take the outright lead en route to his 15th major.

    But it didn't take long for him to unravel. He bogeyed two of the first three holes and went back to the pack early.

    Leaders Jim Furyk and Graeme McDowell are solid ball-strikers who don't take many chances and know how to manage this course.

    They will play not-to-lose on Sunday, waiting to see who makes the first mistake.

    If someone else wins, he will have to come and get them. It's unlikely either of them will shoot themselves in the foot and lose the tournament that way.

    That leads us to the possibility of them finishing with identical final scores, since neither will likely give way during Sunday's final round.

    Each will constantly have the best look at what the other will be doing. So it will be a chess match between them, and you already know that a lot of chess matches end in a draw.

    If that is the case here, you can expect to see extra holes on Monday.

The Comeback Kids

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    Seventeen players are within five shots of the lead.

    Three—Tiger Woods, Ernie Els and Retief Goosen—are multiple U.S. Open winners, and Martin Kaymer,  winner of the PGA Championship, is the only player whose natural style fits this course.

    The hottest player on tour, Jason Dufner, is also in that group, along with 2012 TPC winner and 2010 PGA Tour money-list leader Matt Kuchar.

    Former world No. 1 Lee Westwood has been in this position before. He is yet again looking for that elusive first major.

    Last year's tour revelation Webb Simpson, a player who will not overpower a course but rather play to his strengths, is part of the contingent looking to make the comeback today.

    The rest are mainly new faces, including 17-year-old amateur Beau Hossler, who at three-over has outplayed all but seven players so far.

    The leaders are unlikely to come down to the pack. But in the case they do, the competition will be fierce,  just like when you draft at the Daytona 500. You wait until it's time to go win it and try to avoid the big one, in this case the big collapse.

Lee Westwood

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    The world's No. 3 might be the best player to not win a major. He is in a familiar place near the top of a major championship leader board.

    He finished tied for seventh the last time the U.S. Open was played at the Olympic Club. He's had four top-10 finishes in 12 U.S. Open appearances, including a tie for third last year at Congressional Country Club.

    Westwood has held the tournament lead in many majors before surrendering it during later rounds.

    This time he has been grinding it out and climbing the leader board slowly. He's just three shots behind.

    If there is anyone who can go low on Sunday and catch the leaders, it's Westwood.

    Besides the marquee group, he is the player to watch. This could be the day he finally wins his first major and erases his name from the list of best players without one.

Tiger Woods

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    It was expected that Woods would make his move to separate himself from the pack on Saturday and go on to win his 15th major. But the only place he moved was backward.

    He had been leading the field on driving accuracy, but on Saturday he couldn't find the fairways. Add to that his difficulty controlling the distance of his shots and it was his recipe for disaster.

    It doesn't look good for Woods, who has never come back to win a major and would have to turn in the best round of the tournament so far to reach one-under par.

    If he is to at least get himself in contention, he must once again get the ball in the fairway, get a grip on his distance control and get off to a quick start.

    That is easier said than done. But then again, this is Tiger Woods. If he were to just let go today and play his game, he can produce a low score.

    Will it be enough to win? Not likely, but at least it would be a must watch if he were to be at his best today.

Notable Pairings and Tee Times

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    Thirty-six groups will take the tough Lake Course at the Olympic Club today, but in reality the last eight are most likely to produce the winner of the 112th edition of the U.S. Open.

    The USGA has done a remarkable job with the pairings. I can point out five that will be especially interesting to keep an eye on.

    Matt Kuchar and Martin Kaymer are players who can go low on Sunday with their steady game. The course is tailor-made for someone like Kaymer, who has been steadily improving through the rounds and naturally moves the ball around the course's contours.

    Jason Dufner and teenage amateur Beau Hossler, who has definitely become a top story this weekend, will be worth watching.

    Webb Simpson and Nicolas Colsaerts will be a total contrast in styles like it was yesterday when Colsaerts paired with Graeme McDowell. Both absolutely have the game to go ahead and get it done today.

    Lee Westwood and Fredrik Jacobsen are two solid strikers who will be picking their spots through the course. Both are very capable of shooting low scores.

    A major win for Westwood would allow him to achieve what's left on his already extremely successful resume. And for Jacobsen, a win would make him the first Swede male to win a major. No pressure, right?

    And, of course, there is the marquee pairing of Jim Furyk and McDowell. This will be like watching a chess match between two masters trying to pick apart each other's game with their surgeon-like shots.

    For a complete view of the pairing at usopen.com, you can click here. The last eight groups are displayed below.

    All Times PT.

    Group Tee Time   Pairing  
    28 1:50   C. Wittenberg T. Woods
    29 2:00   M. Kuchar M. Kaymer
    30 2:10   R. Goosen J. Peterson
    31 2:20   J. Dufner B. Hossler (a)
    32 2:30   J. Senden K. Chappell
    33 2:40   W. Simpson N. Colsaerts
    34 2:50   B. Adams E. Els
    35 3:00   L. Westwood F. Jacobson
    36 3:10   J. Furyk G. McDowell