U.S. Open: Round 3 in the books with Barnes still on top

June 21, 2009 | Drew Forrester

54 holes are complete at the U.S. Open and a couple of guys who’ve never been in this position before are suddenly in this position.

Ricky Barnes (-8) and Lucas Glover (-7) are five and four shots clear of the field, respectively, and it’s looking a lot like a 2-man showdown over the last 18 holes.

Not so fast. 

A trio of guys who know a thing or two about championship golf are in their rear view mirror(s): Mike Weir (-2) and David Duval (-3) both own one major title while Phil Mickelson has three majors to his credit. 

One thing no one on the leaderboard has to worry about:  Tiger Woods (+1) is out of it.

Or, is he?

They’re deliberating that on NBC right now, I assume to keep viewers interested if nothing else.

Tiger’s great – the greatest ever, in fact – but even he can’t leapfrog a dozen or so guys and clean up a 9-shot deficit in four holes of golf.

I know…I know…you never say “can’t” with Tiger.  I know that.  But this is “can’t do” territory. Trust me.  He’s done.

Barnes and Glover, meanwhile, need to carry on with the same kind of fortitude they displayed in round 3 on Sunday.  If they play defensive or soft, one of the lurkers will catch them with a magical final round.  The course is long because of the weekend rain, but that also means the greens are receptive and birdies are accessible.  

Still, it’s the final round of a U.S. Open and that means nerves will certainly play a key role in the last 18 holes.  

Look for one of the three experienced major champs to gear down and make a spirited run.  David Duval would be the most improbable winner of this event since 1996 when Steve Jones came out of nowhere-land to win the Open at Oakland Hills.  A decade ago, he was the best player in the world.  These days, he’s just a guy who used to be really good.  But a final round 66 or so could propel him back into the world golf spotlight — as long as Barnes or Glover comply and let the field back into the event.  Mickelson is clearly the fan favorite and with all due respect to Duval and his return-to-glory, a win by Lefty at Bethpage would be one of the most epic triumphs in the history of the Open.  Phil’s wife is back in San Diego preparing to undergo breast cancer surgery and the fan favorite’s courageous effort this weekend has captured everyone’s heart.  

They’ll take an hour or so to get the golf course ready for round #4 and the players will return early this evening to begin the final round.  It’s an odd way to play the national golf championship, but then again, this has been a bizarre four days of start-and-stop golf.  It really hasn’t felt like a major championship, for the most part, but that’s not the tournament’s fault.  

And when you look at the top of the leaderboard, it looks more like a mid-summer event in Hartford or Milwaukee with guys like Barnes and Glover leading.  Scan down the leaderboard a little though and see the names of Duval, Weir and Mickelson and you get the major championship flavor.  

One thing for sure…someone’s going to be sleeping on the U.S. Open lead about 6 hours from now.

And it will be a Monday to remember for one player.