Will Zalatoris, Matt Fitzpatrick share lead at US Open as big names lurk

You couldn’t draw up a better final-round for a major championship than the one that’s in store Sunday for the climax of the 122nd U.S. Open at The Country Club.

No one is running away with it, so drama is almost guaranteed. The top of the leaderboard is adorned with some of the biggest names in the game. Storylines are everywhere.

Matt Fitzpatrick, who won the 2013 U.S. Amateur on this very course, has been hanging around all week, refusing to go away, though facing trouble at times. He shares the lead with Will Zalatoris, the best young player in the sport, though he is still seeking his first career victory. They’re both 4-under.

Jon Rahm, the defending champion, is 3-under and walked off the course with his temper hot following a double bogey on No. 18 after he hit his tee shot into a fairway bunker and then plugged his approach shot into a greenside bunker.

Keegan Bradley, the Vermont native who has become the hometown favorite, is a tantalizing two shots back at 2-under, alongside world No. 1 Scottie Scheffler and Canadian Adam Hadwin.

Scheffler seemed ready to run and hide in the middle of his round, after he got to 6-under and a two-shot lead when he made the turn. He then went stunningly south, however, with a double bogey on No. 11, the tiny par-3 on which players hit wedges. 

Then came bogeys on Nos. 12, 13 and 14 and he was suddenly reduced to 1-under and on the chase. He rallied with a birdie on No. 18 to get to 2-under.

Not out of it by any means is Rory McIlroy, who’s trying to end an eight-year drought without a major championship victory after winning four by age 25. McIlroy is tied with Sam Burns and 36-hole co-leader Joel Dahmen at 1-under, a mere three shots out of the lead.

“I certainly think it gives me an edge over the others, yeah,’’ Fitzpatrick said of his U.S. Amateur win. “I genuinely do believe that. It’s a real, obviously, positive moment in my career. It kind of kick-started me. To come back here and play so well again, it kind of just gives me growing confidence round by round.’’

Fitzpatrick is in form, having been in contention at the PGA Championship last month in Tulsa, Okla., where he finished tied for fifth, his best result in a major.

“I think up until Southern Hills really, I didn’t really appreciate how hard it is actually to win a major,’’ Fitzpatrick said. “I’ve not challenged really up until then. I think, myself included, and people on the outside maybe think it’s easier than it is. You just have to look at Tiger [Woods]. He knocked off so many in such a quick span. That’s why I think people think, ‘Oh, it’s a piece of cake; it’s like a regular Tour event.’ But it’s not.