The USGA didn't pull any punches on Saturday.
Pinehurst No. 2 is already a demanding course, but with some extremely difficult pin positions, par suddenly became a very good number for Round 3 of the 2014 U.S. Open.
Only two players—Rickie Fowler and Erik Compton—posted scores in the red on Saturday. That's right, Martin Kaymer didn't continue his streak of brilliant low numbers.
So, where does the field stand heading into Sunday?
Here's a look at the current leaderboard:
Kaymer still holds a commanding lead after posting a two-over 72 on Saturday.
It wasn't a flawless performance by any stretch, as Kaymer hit just 9-of-13 fairways—during the first two rounds, Kaymer missed just three total fairways—and 10-of-18 greens on the day.
During a press conference after his round, via Sean Martin of PGATour.com, Kaymer spoke briefly of the course's difficulty:
"It was good. I didn't play as well as the first two days, but I kept it together. The USGA put the pins in very, very difficult positions."
So, what's in store for the final round?
Before we get down to some predictions, here's a look at what this year's top finishers could earn after a solid Sunday at Pinehurst No. 2:
*Projected payouts based on tournament's $8 million purse.
With a good idea of what this year's top 10 will earn, let's take a look at the final predictions for the 2014 U.S. Open:
|Place||Golfer||To Par||R4 Score|
Sean O'Donnell's Predictions
Kaymer will maintain his lead through the final 18 holes and become the first ever player to win the Players Championship and U.S. Open in the same year.
Despite a two-over 72 on Saturday, Kaymer proved he can continue his solid play under a great deal of pressure. With a five-stroke lead heading into Sunday, he has enough cushion to focus on making pars and force the field to catch him.
According to a tweet from ESPN's Trey Wingo, through 36 holes, history is on Kaymer's side:
Is Martin Kaymer's lead invincible? no 36-hole leader at the U.S. Open has blown a lead of more than 4 shots. And that happened back in 1909— trey wingo (@wingoz) June 13, 2014
A five-shot lead with just 18 holes to play is huge for Kaymer. There's no indication he'll relinquish many strokes at all.
Simply put, the rest of the field is playing for second.
After all, Kaymer was cool as ever during his press conference, as he gave a perfect answer to a probing member of the media asking about the German's birdie to finish his round on Saturday, via a tweet from Sean Martin of PGATour.com:
Reporter: "How big is the difference between a 4-shot lead and 5-shot lead?" Kaymer: "1 shot."— Sean Martin (@PGATOURSMartin) June 15, 2014
Another solid round from Rickie Fowler on Sunday should secure his spot in second place.
Fowler has been working with coach Butch Harmon in an effort to gain a more consistent swing. The duo has produced varied results—until now.
Fowler's swing looks as crisp as ever, and his steady play this week has proved just that. With a pair of 70s to start the tournament, followed by a three-under 67 on Saturday, he appears to have the best chance to go low on Sunday to finish just behind Kaymer.
In fact, Fowler may be able to apply a bit of pressure on the leader, as Golf Central announced they would play together in the final group:
Rounding out the top three is the steady Henrik Stenson.
Stenson is the epitome of consistency right now. He's tied for first in the tournament, having yet to record a double bogey or higher. He's also tied for second in total pars with 38 through three rounds. His nine birdies are good enough to rank T4.
The European Tour tweeted another great Stenson stat:
There's no reason to believe Stenson will fall down the rankings on Sunday. His solid and consistent play will keep him hovering right near the top of the leaderboard for a top-three finish at the very least.