It's an exciting leaderboard, with Jordan Spieth having played himself into excellent position for a weekend challenge. Jason Day looks primed and ready to finally get it done, sitting nicely placed just two shots back of an inspired Matt Jones who just finished his round at eleven under.
My dark horse pick, Branden Grace sits in nice position, tied for tenth at five under. We just might see he and Jordan Spieth coming down the final stretch with a chance to win, just like we did at Chambers Bay. The courses are similar, with the difference being that Chambers Bay offered a potential eagle finish, while the Straits offers up a potential train wreck.
It really appears that this week will be about making hay on the birdie holes, and managing to somehow scramble a par on the potentially disastrous holes. The course design is such that it won't be over 'til it's over, with eighteen possibly looming large in the potential winner's mind as he tries to be a part of golfing history. We could find ourselves talking about the guys who might have won, but for eighteen. We saw DJ's infamous demise there in 2010, grounding his club in one of those thousand bunkers, many of which come complete with patrons looking to get a better view of the action. We also saw Bubba make rather a mess of eighteen last time, which you could say cost him the Wannamaker trophy, if you are inclined to talk about the guys who lost it, rather than the guy who won it.
Whatever happens this weekend, it looks to be a shootout, with many of the usual suspects, along with a few surprise candidates, trying to get to where a par at eighteen will be enough to claim the prize. Making a par at the 520 yard par 4 eighteenth at the Straits will likely be as hard, or harder, than making a birdie at the par five eighteenth at Chambers Bay. What DJ would have given for a birdie at eighteen at Chambers Bay on that fateful Sunday a couple of months ago, or a par on eighteen at Whistling Straits in 2010.
Whether you like a finishing hole to be a beast, or a chance to make an eagle, either way, number eighteen is often important. It's the last hurdle. And, unless you are coming to eighteen this week with a three or four shot lead, it's going to make your heart beat just a little faster. Every man in this field would have paid handsomely for four pars at eighteen this week. Par, in this case, is a very good score.