It’s Sunday at the U.S. Open, and the Leaders Are Tied

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The U.S. Open, one of golf’s most fearsome tests, is headed into its final round at Los Angeles Country Club. Although the course has sometimes seemed more forgiving than past Open venues, any championship round has the potential to become excruciating — especially when the final round starts with a tie atop the leaderboard.

Rickie Fowler, who shot an even-par 70 in the third round, left the course Saturday evening knotted with Wyndham Clark, who birdied the 18th hole to go to one under on the day. Both men are at 10 under for the week, leaving them with one-stroke advantages over Rory McIlroy.

Golf is expecting its third major tournament champion of 2023, with Jon Rahm, who won the Masters Tournament, and Brooks Koepka, who won the P.G.A. Championship, far down the leaderboard.

Of the players in the top five, only McIlroy and Scottie Scheffler have won majors.

McIlroy’s last major victory was in 2014, and a win on Sunday would be his fifth major title. Scheffler, the world’s top-ranked player, won the Masters in 2022; he rocketed up the Los Angeles leaderboard when he holed out from 196 yards for an eagle on No. 17. He ended Saturday at seven under, putting him three strokes off the lead.

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But Fowler is a perpetually popular talent with a long history of close-but-not-quite major finishes. On Thursday, he, along with Xander Schauffele, shot a 62, an Open record. Fowler elicited gasps on Saturday when he sank a 69-foot birdie putt on the 13th hole. He provoked groans later when, at No. 18, he missed a par putt of less than five feet.

Clark is playing his third U.S. Open, and this is the first time he has made the cut. His best showing in a major before this one? A tie for 75th at the 2021 P.G.A. Championship.

Harris English, who trails Fowler and Clark by four strokes, came close in that year’s U.S. Open, finishing third.

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With the major tournaments offering some of the biggest prizes in golf and the surest paths to greatness — Koepka noted this past week that a golfer’s tally of major victories is what his career is “judged on” — players ordinarily like to focus on golf, and golf alone.

That has not been so easy at this Open. On June 6, the PGA Tour and Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund, the force behind the LIV Golf circuit that divided the sport, announced a plan to form a partnership. The deal, if it closes, could end golf’s most bruising clash in generations, but it has already led to widespread uncertainty about the future of the game.

In public and in private, players have spent much of the past two weeks mulling what that future might look like.

For what it’s worth, the PGA Tour and LIV are knotted at one major victory each this season: Rahm plays for the tour, while Koepka is a headliner for LIV.

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NBC will air final-round coverage beginning at 1 p.m. Eastern time. The tournament’s presence on the West Coast means the Open will not be settled until well into the evening in much of the United States, with the championship expected to be decided by about 10 p.m. Eastern time.

All bets are off, though, if there is a tie at the top after everyone has finished 72 holes.

The Open has not reached a playoff since 2008, when Tiger Woods won at Torrey Pines. The format has since changed: If the leaders are tied after regulation play, there will be a two-hole aggregate playoff, contested on the first and 18th holes. If the leaders are still knotted after those two holes, a sudden-death competition will commence. The idea is to have a winner on Sunday evening, not Monday, as has happened in past Opens.

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