By Chuck Garbedian Special to Published Jun 22, 2009 at 5:07 AM

It would take an awful lot of backing up from Lucas Glover and Ricky Barnes to bring the rest of the field behind them into the picture at the 109th U.S. Open at Bethpage State Park's Black Course.

Both Glover and Barnes are atop the leaderboard, currently five shots clear of a star-studded group at two-under that includes Phil Mickelson, David Duval, Hunter Mahan and Ross Fisher. Mike Weir is alone at one-under for the event while the group at even-par features Tiger Woods, Soren Hansen, Graeme McDowell, Bubba Watson and Retief Goosen.

This thing is far from over as history has shown that the leaders traditionally back up, at least a little, through the final round of a US Open. Should that happen and a player or two within striking distance (two, three, four, five shots back) gets on a roll, there is no telling what the result of this Open will be. It remains to be seen if either or both Glover and/or Barnes can remain five full shots ahead of the field for the duration of the final round as this is uncharted water for both of these players.

TIGER: Has Tiger Woods played himself back into this tournament? That is the question. You would think so after posting rounds of 74-69-68 in his first three rounds, good, but not great scores, that leave him seven shots back of the leaders with only 11 holes left in his US Open.

For all the conversation of where Tiger was after the Memorial, it might have been all done in by the luck of the draw. Starting early-late in this Open put Tiger on the wrong side of the weather on Thursday, then when things got backed up on Friday, not only did he not put a peg in the ground for what seemed like forever, he missed some of the best scoring conditions Bethpage had seen all week long. What Tiger needs now is to get white hot and have everyone in front of him fade, which is not a likely combination.

PHIL: Philly Mick has tallied an amazing 15 birdies so far but has also posted nine bogeys and two doubles. For all the traction Lefty has amassed, he's given almost all of it right back it seems. Still he is two under entering the fourth round and trails the leaders by just five shots, which on a golf course like Bethpage Black in the condition that it's in can be just a two or three hole train wreck. Mickelson is even through two holes of his final round and needs to go on another birdie binge like he had in round three (seven birdies) while staying away from disaster (four bogeys and a double in Rd.3). Another 69 or 70 just won't do for Lefty to bring home his first US Open. He gave one away at Winged Foot, can he come from behind and claim one at Bethpage?

HUNTER: Hunter Mahan has put up consecutive 2-under par 68s following an opening round two-over 72. Mahan is also even par through two holes of his fourth round and needs to stay away from the bogey train (a stretch of four straight; Holes 5-8 in Round One) and the big number such as the two double bogeys he's posted after a string of two straight birdies. No question Mahan has the firepower to light it up at Bethpage, the question here is, does he have the patience to go along with it, to know when to lock and load?

Double-D: David Duval "shocked" the world with his opening round 67 at the US Open at Bethpage Black. Since that round he's backed it up with bookend, even par rounds of 70, but it is not the number that tells the true story. During each of his three completed rounds so far, Duval has had it going, only to give it back. Here is a man who put up five birdies in his opening round against two bogeys. Then in his second round 70, Duval holed another five birdies, this time against five bogeys. In his third round Double D notched four birdies to go along with four bogeys again posting an even par round of 70. The fire is there, the desire seems to be there and the game is certainly there. Duval has talked about the improvement in his game and its beginning to show, now if he can just avoid the untimely miscue. Duval is one over through two holes of his final round. Now would be a very good time to start the climb towards another multiple birdie round.

FISHER: Ross Fisher is a 28-year old Englishman who is playing in his second US Open, the first coming last year at Torrey Pines where he missed the cut. He is in his fourth season on the Euro Tour and earned his first Euro Tour win in 2007 at the KLM Open. In three starts on the 2009 PGA TOUR, Fisher's best finish is a tie for 29th at the Quail Hollow Championship against two missed cuts in three events. Fisher has hit 80% of his greens in regulation at Bethpage but has only 10 birdies to show for his efforts and is already one over par through one hole of his fourth round at the Open.

OH, CANADA: Mike Weir is trending in a way no Tour player wants to. With rounds of 64-70-74, the Canadian Lefty is clearly moving in the wrong direction. But this being an "extraordinary" Open, Weir still finds himself in the mix heading into the final round, although he is one over par through three holes. MW has posted 12 birdies so far in this US Open but 11 of them came in the first two rounds. In round three, the former Masters winner birdied the par four fifth hole, only to jump aboard the bogey train and then ride it for four of the next five holes. With the soggy conditions, Weir has been able to wield hybrid clubs to his advantage but a look at his overall stats may just show where the trending has occurred. Through three rounds Weir has hit only half of his fairways in regulation and no matter how good you are with a hybrid it is harder to take advantage of the technology if you're gouging it out of the heather.

NUMBERS: The days have run into each other, the rounds have run into each other, I'm sure the players have run into each other. It is all that and more when it comes to an Open Championship that has been challenged by the weather.

For the record, the second round scoring average for 18 holes was 72.028 while the third round scoring average was trending higher and coming in at 72.666. Now the half-shot difference may not seem like a lot, but keep in mind, that the third round number was posted by only 60 players as it was after the cut from 156. Bethpage Black was and is getting harder and so is the Open as well.

In round one, Mike Weir shot a 6-under par 64. In round two, Lucas Glover fired a 6-under par 64. In round three, the low round of the day was turned in by Bubba Watson who posted a 3-under par 67. In round four there are several scores right now at two-under par as a best and none of those at minus-2 are in the top-10.

If a Mike Weir or a Phil Mickelson or a David Duval can rip off a 66 or even a 65 by the time Monday afternoon rolls into the picture, the 109th US Open may just be decided by an 18-hole playoff that would begin who knows when.

And consider this, six of the easiest holes at Bethpage are on the outward nine holes, meaning that if you are going to make a significant move, make it early and then hold on for the ride coming in. Hoping to blitz the inward nine for a bushel of birdies is asking, very politely, for trouble.

I LIKE TO WATCH: The Monday line-up of Must See US Open television begins at 9:00 am Eastern and runs to 11:30 am on ESPN with NBC taking over at 11:30 am and running with the coverage until the US Open concludes.

WEATHER OR NOT: It is expected to be 72 degrees with a 40 percent chance of afternoon showers so the weather should not be a factor in this finish. Finally after all the weather alterations to the 109th US Open, the event may just be decided by the players.

THE FINISH: I would hate to think that the winner of the 109th US Open at Bethpage Black would be considered a "fluke" simply because of the weather issues that this event has had to endure this week. The players still have to play and whether it is a Ricky Barnes or Lucas Glover capturing their first major, or a Phil Mickelson or Mike Weir adding to their major championship resume it should be duly noted that while the venue is always an important component of a major championship, just as the weather is, it's the players that make the difference. And in this case, Mother Nature has done her part, Bethpage Black's ground crew has done their part, the USGA has done their part. Now it's up to the players, for the simple truth is, players play and on Monday it looks like they'll finally have their chance to shine on Bethpage Black.


Chuck Garbedian Special to
Chuck has more than a decade of experience in many aspects of the golf industry -- from sales to teaching to hosting radio talk shows. He has been media chairman for the Greater Milwaukee Open since 1992, has served as women's golf coach at Wisconsin Lutheran College and is a member of the Golf Writers Association of America. He currently does work for PGA TOUR Network on SIRIUS XM Radio.