SATURDAY is moving day for professional golfers at tournaments around the world.
Well, it is for those who make the cut.
The 114th US Open at Pinehurst No. 2 in North Carolina from June 12-15 is no different.
Those who do play on the weekend will want to be there or thereabouts going into the final round.
That’s a given.
But is being atop the leaderboard after 54 holes the best position to be in at the US Open?
Statistics tells us players who are close to the lead have a better chance of winning the US Open Trophy.
Over the years, most (55 per cent) of third round leaders – including Greg Norman, Phil Mickelson, Aaron Baddeley, Retief Goosen, Jim Furyk, Payne Stewart, Tom Lehman and Dustin Johnson – have let the tournament slip through their fingers.
Still, Goosen, Stewart and Furyk also have had the joy of leading into the final round and winning.
In 2004, the Goose led into the last round and won, but a year later he squandered that chance when he carded an inglorious 80 to finish in a tie for 11th.
Kiwi Michael Campbell, four off the pace, held off Tiger Woods to win his first major.
Furyk, who won in 2003, was co-leader entering the final round in 2012 but finished fourth and Stewart, in 1998, led into the final round only to finish runner-up.
Stewart didn’t make the same mistake in 1999 strolling to victory with a final round 70.
In 1986, the Shark was at the peak of his golfing powers but he too failed to win the US Open leading into the last day.
He held a one shot lead over Hal Sutton and Lee Trevino with Raymond Floyd three back.
Floyd fired a final round 66 to win and Greg wound up with a 75 to finish six shots back.
In 2007, Baddeley held a two-shot lead over Tiger, but, like the Shark, tumbled down the leaderboard on the final day. His 80 left him in a tie for 13th.
No, Tiger didn’t win.
Argentinean Angel Cabrera, tied for seventh going into the final round, edged out Woods and Furyk to win his first US Open crown.
Tiger has never come from behind to win the US Open, but he has won three titles (2000-’02-’08) leading after 54 holes.
Ernie Els (1994) and Rory McIlroy (2011), too, have led into the final round and won.
Australian golf fans who felt Norman and Baddley’s pain must have some sympathies for American Tom Lehman.
Three times the former Open Championship winner led the US Open going into the final round and didn’t make it to the winner’s circle.
In 1995-’96-’97 he led but ended up finishing third, tied for second and third respectively.
Mickelson twice has led going into the last round and had to settle for a tie for second.
In 2010, American Dustin Johnson held a three-shot lead over Northern Ireland’s Graeme McDowell, but folded quickly on the last day, triple-bogeying the second hole and then double-bogeying the third.
There was no way back from there and he signed for an 82. McDowell won the title with a final round 74.
So, what drama can we expect at this year’s US Open?
Well, what we do know is scoring won’t be easy at Pinehurst No. 2.
When the tournament was last played there (2005), winner Michael Campbell finished with an even-par score and Payne Stewart, in 1999, managed to win with a one-under par score.
The Pinehurst No. 2 course includes 51 fairway bunkers, 56 greenside bunkers and one, that’s right, one water hazard. The only water on the course is a small pond off the 16th tee … and it won’t, or shouldn’t, come into play.
FOOTNOTE: Two Australians, David Graham (1981) and Geoff Ogilvy (2006) have won the US Open. In 1981, Graham, three behind George Burns entering the final round, shot a 67 to win by three and Ogilvy, in 2006, came from a shot back after 54 to beat Mickelson and Furyk by a shot.
US Open comebacks
There have been plenty of come-from-behind wins in the 118-year history of the US Open. These players made up the most ground.
Year Winner Back Finish
1960 Arnold Palmer 7 65
1973 Johnny Miller 6 63
1919 Walter Hagen 5 *75
1928 Johnny Farrell 5 *72
1939 Byron Nelson 5 *68
1998 Lee Janzen 5 68
1922 Gene Sarazen 4 68
1936 Tony Manero 4 67
1938 Ralph Guldahl 4 69
1971 Lee Trevino 4 *69
1975 Lou Graham 4 *73
1990 Hale Irwin 4 *67
2005 Michael Campbell 4 69
2004 Angel Cabrera 4 69
2012 Webb Simpson 4 68
US Open starts
A good opening round at the US Open is only the beginning as indicated by these good first round and ordinary second round scores.
Name Scores Year
Ray Ainsley 76-96 1938
Lee Mackey 64-81 1950
Al Brosch 67-84 1950
Gene Littler 68-83 1966
Mike Reid 67-81 1976
Tom Weiskopf 70-83 1971
Joey Sindelar 66-79 1993
Jimmy Gullane 73-85 1926
Dutch Harrison 70-82 1941
Tom Weiskopf 63-75 1980
Ray Floyd 67-79 1980
Bob Murphy 69-81 1983
Fred Couples 66-78 1985
Bernhard Langer 66-78 1989
Justin Hicks 68-80 2008
Colin Montgomerie 65-76 1997
Payne Stewart 66-75 1989
Brett Quigley 65-74 2003
Nick Dougherty 68-77 2007
Kevin Streelman 68-77 2008
Michael Thompson 66-75 2012