PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. — Gary Woodland showed no signs of letting up on the weekend as he continued holding the lead carried it through Saturday at the 119th U.S. Open. Woodland is in the midst of playing the best major golf of his professional career, and after a couple top-10 finishes, it seems appropriate to see his name at the top of the leaderboard at Pebble Beach. However, the question remains: Will Woodland convert this opportunity to his first major win?
Kyle Porter and I have often discussed the idea of win opportunities — that you only get but so many chances to go and win a tournament on Sunday — on the First Cut Podcast, and that idea is particularly prevalent at major championships. There are only four majors in a year and only so many times that a golfer will find himself in striking distance heading into the final round of one of these championships. Woodland may be more than a decade into his professional career, but his major success has all been recent; holding the 54-hole lead against championship-caliber contenders will be as much of a test as trying to best Pebble Beach for a fourth straight day after three rounds under par.
Back-to-back defending U.S. Open champion Brooks Koepka is the most dangerous of that group, heading into the final round four strokes off the pace but feeling good about his game after three straight sub-70 rounds. Justin Rose, who played with Woodland on Saturday and will again Sunday, is one shot back. Fellow major champions Louis Oosthuizen and Rory McIlroy are also in striking distance, and Sunday’s biggest question will be which of these proven winners — or maybe another potential first-time winner — will make a run at the lead when things get tight across the final 18 holes of the championship.
Let’s check out the leaderboard as it stands heading into Sunday at the 2019 U.S. Open.
1. Gary Woodland (-11): All of the pressure in the world was on Woodland, but the leader was comfortable in that position. His two scores of bogey or worse are the fewest in the field across 54 holes and some of the par saves on Saturday were as impressive as the birdies. Woodland’s 54-hole score of 202 is the tied for the third-best in U.S. Open history, matching Martin Kaymer (2014) and trailing only Jim Furyk (2003) and Rory McIlroy (2011). Those three players all went on to win their respective events, and Woodland hopes to add his name to that list.
2. Justin Rose (-10): There’s something to be said for the way that Rose has been grinding through this championship. Rose was two shots back after 54 holes when he won at Merion in 2013, and here — in this position — he has to like his form heading into Sunday. There were some tough challenges for Rose on Saturday, and he delivered time and again, including a birdie on the last.
T3. Brooks Koepka, Chez Reavie, Louis Oosthuizen (-7): We’re going to have our attention focused on Koepka, but this is a strong position for both Reavie and Oosthuizen. Reavie has no top-10s in 17 major starts and is in position for his best-ever major finish. Oosthuizen, the Open Championship winner in 2010, is on pace for his best U.S. Open finish since Chambers Bay in 2015.
6. Rory McIlroy (-6): Everything about this visit to Pebble Beach has going against the grain from Rory’s recent U.S. Open appearances. In missing the last three cuts at the U.S. Open, McIlroy was punished by poor scores in early rounds. So while the misses and tough breaks came during Saturday’s third round, he kept confidence knowing that he was still in the hunt and continued to battle for birdies down the stretch. McIlroy is the most dangerous threat to Woodland behind Koepka, and I think the leader should expect to see the four-time major winner shoot a low score on Sunday afternoon.
T7. Matt Kuchar, Chesson Hadley (-5): A quiet 70 for both of these golfers is probably a good thing as they were able to hang in contention as others took their lumps on a cold day with some unpleasant scores on the board. Kuchar was in a great spot before bogeys at 16 and 17 coming down the stretch, but both golfers are going to have a chance for a high finish on the leaderboard heading into the final 18 holes.
T9. Danny Willett, Graeme McDowell, Jon Rahm, Henrik Stenson, Matt Wallace (-4): Willett had one of the best rounds of the day with his 67, while McDowell and Stenson have to be pleased with one-under rounds of 70 to remain among the top 10 of the leaderboard. Given where Woodland sits it’s difficult to imagine any of these players ending up as the champion but there will be plenty on the line — from prize money to exemptions and FedEx Cup Standings points — on Sunday.
T17. Dustin Johnson (-2): There have been three-to-four hole runs for DJ here at Pebble Beach that make it look so easy that you can easily imagine him strutting to a U.S. Open title. But there have been a few brief moments that have been so penalizing that DJ has never really been a threat to win. Backdoor top 10 alert here, as a really low score on Sunday would be no surprise given how close he’s been at times this week.
T27. Tiger Woods (E): A five-birdie, five-bogey, even par round of 71 was as wild as it looks on paper for the two-time U.S. Open champion. Really, it was only a late push that kept him here inside the top 30 on the leaderboard after a poor start and plenty of missed opportunities on and around the green.
CBS Sports was with you the entire way Saturday updating this story with the latest scores, analysis and highlights from Round 3 of the 2019 U.S. Open. If you are unable to view the updates below, please click here.
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