by G. Rennie
A new day and a bit of a different golf course brought quite a few surprises to the U.S Open on Saturday not the least of which was a remarkable resurgence of European golfer’s. The invading horde from the Old World have a man tied for the 54 hole lead, another in 3rd place, and two more tied for the 4th spot. Jose Maria has to be wearing a sly smile this morning as his gang put a full press on to capture the Nicklaus Medal.
While Luke and Rory jetted home , G Mac, the Junkman, and Lee vaulted to the top of the leader board . If you throw in the relatively unknown Belgian, Nicholas Colsaerts, who leads the championship in driving distance, the Euro’s have a four pack poised to win the toughest test in golf.
Graeme MacDowell has been here before and emerged victorious as he picked up his first (and only) major in 2010 at Pebble Beach. California coastal courses seem to agree with the likable Irishman but he’ll have a different challenge today. At Pebble he came from the pack and picked up the trophy after the colossal collapse of leader Dustin Johnson. Not to belittle his accomplishment which was huge but sleeping on the Saturday lead and teeing off in the last group brings a different level of pressure. G Mac played aggressively yesterday, driving the ball straight, putting well, minimizing mistakes to card 68 which tied the second lowest score of the day. He’s the leading candidate from the continental crowd.
Fredrick Jacobsen sits 2 strokes behind joint leaders MacDowell and Jim Furyk at 1 over par. This guy possesses one of the most distinctive swings in the game , either side of the Atlantic, and given his nickname ( The Junkman), you know that the song ain’t the thing. Freddy does it his way and has a knack for holing putts from all over God’s creation which gives a double barreled meaning to the Junkman moniker. His 68 was cobbled together by finding only 6 fairways and 11 greens. But he only needed 28 putts. There seem to be a lot of holes in the junkyard. Freddy is exciting but he’ll fade fast today, I think.
The English Bulldog, Lee Westwood, managed the lowest score of the day and once again threatens to claim that ever elusive major championship win. Arguably the finest golfer in the world without a major championship to his credit, Westwood smoked the back side with 3 birdies, closing in dramatic fashion with 3 on 18. He’ll be paired with the Junkyard Swede in the next to last match of the day and will be able to keep an eye on the leaders one group behind while also applying same pressure from the front. In a post round interview Saturday Lee, when asked about deserving to win a major, remarked that ” You don’t deserve it unless you win it”. Lee is due and the main problem he has right now is starting a big 3 strokes back of two horses that aren’t likely to spit the bit.
Nicholas Colsaerts is the biggest long shot from this Euro group and I don’t give him much chance to win it all today in only his second appearance at the U.S. Open. But stranger things have happened. And they usually do happen here a Olympic. Just ask Jack Fleck.
With four Euro’s poised at the top of the leader board, European golf stands a great chance to claim its third consecutive U.S Open. In days not too far passed it was unthinkable that our national championship would be owned by gents from across the sea. Not anymore.