U.S. SENIOR OPEN
Final Round: Five Things to Know June 30, 2018 | Colorado Springs, Colo. By Dave Shedloski

Jerry Kelly will need to negotiate the demanding 17th hole on his way to potential victory on Sunday. (USGA/Chris Keane)

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Three rounds are in the books at The Broadmoor. And if we’ve learned anything after 54 holes of this 39th U.S. Senior Open, it’s that players are still learning the intricacies of the beguiling East Course.

We saw a few more low scores on Saturday, including 66s by David Toms, Brandt Jobe and 2010 U.S. Senior Open champion Bernhard Langer, but so far nobody is locked in. Not one competitor has put up three sub-par rounds. Among the seven players who own aggregate scores in red figures, four have broken par (70) only once.

Jerry Kelly continues to lead, but the leader board is bunched more tightly than a stalk of celery. Six shots separate the top 14 players, meaning no one can play safe. “I believe a low one is out there,” Kelly said. “I just hope I’m the one to shoot it.”

The field scoring average has improved each day, another indication that the boys are starting to decipher this mountain layout.

We again quote that famous philosopher Miguel Angel Jimenez, who said, “I think the one who can be the nerves, keeping more calmed down and hole more putts is the one who is going to win.”

Sounds about right.

“It's going to be a nice contest,” he added.

Also sounds about right. Here are five things to know for the final round:

1. Jerry Kelly. Sleeping on the lead for the third straight night isn’t easy, especially when there was a chance to gain separation from the field. But that’s the task ahead for Kelly, who at 4-under 206 is one stroke ahead of Toms. “I’m definitely disappointed,” Kelly said after a third-round 71. Only three men have won this championship wire-to-wire – Dale Douglass (1986), Simon Hobday (1994) and Olin Browne (2011).

2. The Hartford connection. They won’t be in the same pairing, but Kelly and Tim Petrovic, long ago teammates at the University of Hartford, are undoubtedly wishing the best for each other – if he can’t win it himself. The pair shared a hug in the media center Saturday night after some friendly banter as Petrovic was wrapping up his press conference and Kelly was arriving for his. Kelly couldn’t help getting in on the question part of the Q&A. “Can you sing the University of Hartford fight song, please?” One might be singing the other’s praises by late Sunday afternoon.

3. The 17th hole, which some guys refer to as the hole that never ends. Yes, it’s long. As the crow flies, the crow gets tired. The card says 545 yards, which makes it the longest par 4 in U.S. Senior Open history. Coming late in the round, when the legs are getting heavy, it seems even more arduous, which will make the all-important tee shot that much harder. “The tee shot's what makes you nervous. If you hit it in the rough it's hard to get anywhere near the green in two,” said Davis Love III, who calls it “an easy par 5.” This hole might decide the championship.

4. The hot putter. The bogey-free 66 Toms shot on Saturday came courtesy, primarily, of holing a few putts that weren’t on the menu in the first two rounds. “I think my speed on the greens today was a lot better. That was the key,” said Toms, who avoided stress with a lot of tap-ins. The greens here still present a conundrum. “That’s where the hard work begins,” said Fox analyst Paul Azinger. All it takes is one player to have a day like Toms and he might be hoisting the trophy.

5. Race for low amateur. By making the cut, Jeff Wilson, Mike Finster and Robby Funk extended to 14 years the streak of at least one amateur advancing to the weekend. At 7-over 217, Wilson, of Vallejo, Calif., is one stroke ahead of Finster, of St. Petersburg, Fla., in the battle for low amateur honors. Funk, who was low amateur last year at Salem Country Club, has work to do to be part of the conversation, sitting six behind at 223. Winner gets a couple of nice invites – to the U.S. Amateur at Pebble Beach in August and next year’s U.S. Senior Open.

Dave Shedloski is an Ohio-based freelance writer who frequently contributes to USGA websites.

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