What's at stake for the top players at the U.S. Open on Sunday

Getty Images

After two days of relatively benign U.S. Open conditions at The Country Club, the course fought back to present an incredibly difficult test on Saturday.

With blustery winds and firm conditions, only seven players were able to break par in Round 3, leaving a bunched leaderboard heading to the final 18 holes.

Each of the last 23 winners at the event entered the final round within four shots of the lead, making it likely that one of the following players will win the U.S. Open.

Here's what's at stake for each of them on Sunday.

Matthew Fitzpatrick (-4)

Fitzpatrick is no stranger to success at The Country Club, as the Englishman won the U.S. Amateur at the historic layout in 2013. His victory marked the first win in the event for a player from England in 102 years.

One of golf's steadiest performers this season, Fitzpatrick has made eight cuts on the PGA TOUR this season in 11 events and finished inside the top 15 all eight times. He ranks second on TOUR this season in strokes gained: total and has shown he's at his best in difficult conditions.

While he has seven wins worldwide, Fitzpatrick is yet to claim his first PGA TOUR title. A victory on Sunday would accomplish that feat along with a slice of history in the process.

Will Zalatoris (-4)

Andrew Redington / Getty Images Sport / Getty

There's a good chance if you have turned on your television during a major championship the last couple years you have seen Will Zalatoris' name on a leaderboard. The 25-year-old has played in eight career major championships while racking up five top-10 finishes in the process. That includes a second-place showing at both the Masters and last month's PGA Championship.

The ball-striking wizard showed yet again on Saturday why he's at his best in the toughest conditions, putting up the low round of the day.

With trying conditions expected again on Sunday, Zalatoris is a solid bet to claim not only his first major title but his first victory on the PGA TOUR. According to Justin Ray of the Twenty-First Group, Zalatoris would be the first American to accomplish that feat at the U.S. Open since Jerry Pate in 1976.

Jon Rahm (-3)

The defending champion had one of the steadiest rounds on Saturday before disaster struck at the 18th hole. After finding the fairway bunker off the tee, the 27-year-old was unable to get it over the lip on his first attempt. His third shot ended up in a greenside bunker in a dreaded fried egg lie. The World No. 2 ended up with a double-bogey to go from solo leader to second spot.

There's not much question as to what the Spaniard can accomplish with a win on Sunday, as only seven men have claimed back-to-back U.S. Open titles in the 122-year history of the event.

The fact he's in the second-to-last group on Sunday should make him feel very comfortable; that's the same slot he won last year's U.S. Open at Torrey Pines.

Scottie Scheffler (-2)

Andrew Redington / Getty Images Sport / Getty

For a brief moment on Saturday, it looked as though Scottie Scheffler might just take this tournament and run away. The Masters champion provided the highlight of the day by holing a wedge from 101 yards for eagle on the eighth, a shot that moved him two clear of the field at the time.

However, the World No. 1 suffered on the challenging back nine, making double-bogey on No. 11 followed by three straight bogeys on holes 12-14.

He got one back at the 17th to post a 1-over 71 and sit two off the lead. A win here would be his second major title in his last three starts.

Should Scheffler walk off with the trophy on Sunday, he would be the first player to win both the Masters and U.S. Open in the same season since Jordan Spieth in 2015.

Keegan Bradley (-2)

Keegan Bradley polished off an impressive round of 1-under 69 on Saturday; the Boston fans gave the Vermont native a standing ovation as he walked up the 18th hole.

A second major victory would be massive for Bradley's career. It would come 11 years after he won the 2011 PGA Championship, making him the fifth player to grab two major titles with that gap in time.

Adam Hadwin (-2)

Jared C. Tilton / Getty Images Sport / Getty

The first-round leader finds himself in a great position to make a run on Sunday, sitting just two strokes off the pace. With a PGA TOUR win and a round of 59 to his name, Hadwin has still yet to taste much success in major championships.

In 20 career starts at the four majors, Hadwin has yet to post a top-20 finish - a 24th-place showing at the 2018 Masters is his best result.

A win would mark the second major victory ever by a Canadian man alongside Mike Weir's triumph at the 2003 Masters.

Rory McIlroy (-1)

He might be too far back to have a realistic chance at the title but we've seen Sunday brilliance from McIlroy at a major before.

Saturday's round went south quick for McIlroy with three bogeys in his opening six holes, but the four-time major champion was able to limit the damage on the remaining stretch and got to the clubhouse just three off the lead.

His final-round 64 at the Masters in April saw him fly up the leaderboard to finish second behind Scheffler, and he will need something similar to make that charge again at The Country Club.

There are plenty of accolades that would come McIlroy's way should he register the comeback victory, the most important being his inclusion in the five-major club - something that has only been done by 19 men in golf history.

What's at stake for the top players at the U.S. Open on Sunday
  Got something to say? Leave a comment below!

Daily Newsletter

Get the latest trending sports news daily in your inbox