• BROOKLINE – This is the way it’s supposed to be.

    The U.S. Open prides itself on being the toughest test in golf, and there’s no denying that this year’s edition has lived up to that billing. The tournament will come to its conclusion on Sunday, wrapping up four days of what might be the most challenging golf players encounter all season.

    Saturday’s conditions pushed the best golfers in the world to their limits, knocking some out and staggering others. But those who survived on Saturday have now positioned themselves for glory on Sunday, and no matter who wins this tournament will undeniably be a worthy champion, given the challenges that The Country Club has presented to even the best of the best.

    Brookline has played so tough that only nine golfers enter the final round under par. The few that were able to shoot under par on Saturday were rewarded. Will Zalatoris shot a 67 and Matt Fitzpatrick carded a 68, positioning both for their first major title. They enter Sunday as co-leaders at 4 under par. New England’s own Keegan Bradley shot a 69 and is two off the lead.

    But good luck finding many more players who were in the red Saturday.

    BROOKLINE, MASSACHUSETTS - JUNE 18: Keegan Bradley of the United States plays his shot from the fifth tee during the third round of the 122nd U.S. Open Championship at The Country Club on June 18, 2022 in Brookline, Massachusetts. (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)

    BROOKLINE, MASSACHUSETTS – JUNE 18: Keegan Bradley of the United States plays his shot from the fifth tee during the third round of the 122nd U.S. Open Championship at The Country Club on June 18, 2022 in Brookline, Massachusetts. (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)

  • The front nine nearly broke 4-time champion Rory McIlroy, who was 3 over par through six holes. Teetering with disaster, Rory found his putter, repeatedly one-putting on the back nine to salvage his round.

    A miraculous shot from the rough far off the 18th fairway allowed McIlroy to finish his round at 3 over on the day, but 1 under for the tournament. He is within striking distance, three shots behind Zalatoris and Fitzpatrick.

    BROOKLINE, MASSACHUSETTS - JUNE 18: Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland leaves the 15th tee as a turkey passes the tee box during the third round of the 122nd U.S. Open Championship at The Country Club at The Country Club on June 18, 2022 in Brookline, Massachusetts. (Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images)

    BROOKLINE, MASSACHUSETTS – JUNE 18: Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland leaves the 15th tee as a turkey passes the tee box during the third round of the 122nd U.S. Open Championship at The Country Club at The Country Club on June 18, 2022 in Brookline, Massachusetts. (Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images)

  • Meanwhile, Jon Rahm was tearing up the back nine on Saturday and was in prime position to enter Sunday with the lead. But The Country Club’s unforgiving bunkers claimed the defending champion as their victim on 18, as Rahm took three shots to get out of two bunkers en route to a double bogey.

    Rahm starts Sunday at 3-under-par.

    BROOKLINE, MASSACHUSETTS - JUNE 18: Jon Rahm of Spain plays a shot from a fairway bunker on the 18th hole during the third round of the 122nd U.S. Open Championship at The Country Club on June 18, 2022 in Brookline, Massachusetts. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

    BROOKLINE, MASSACHUSETTS – JUNE 18: Jon Rahm of Spain plays a shot from a fairway bunker on the 18th hole during the third round of the 122nd U.S. Open Championship at The Country Club on June 18, 2022 in Brookline, Massachusetts. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

  • Nearly every player battled, but some were left battered. Collin Morikawa, the tournament leader entering the third round and undeniably one of the best young players in the world, was eaten alive by the course. He shot a 77 on Saturday and is now 2 over par. Brooks Koepka, a two-time U.S. Open champion, carded seven bogeys and shot 5-up on the day, all but taking him out of the running.

    And then there was Scottie Scheffler, the top-ranked player in the world and Masters champion, who melted down on the back nine. He led the tournament at 6 under after putting up an eagle on the 8th hole, but double bogeyed 11 and follow that up with three straight bogeys. A birdie on 17 helped stabilize the end of his round and keeps him only two shots off the lead, but Scheffler will have to work to put his Saturday behind him.

    BROOKLINE, MASSACHUSETTS - JUNE 18: Scottie Scheffler of the United States plays his second shot on the 12th hole during the third round of the 122nd U.S. Open Championship at The Country Club on June 18, 2022 in Brookline, Massachusetts. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)

    BROOKLINE, MASSACHUSETTS – JUNE 18: Scottie Scheffler of the United States plays his second shot on the 12th hole during the third round of the 122nd U.S. Open Championship at The Country Club on June 18, 2022 in Brookline, Massachusetts. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)

  • Scheffler was tested. Rahm was tested. Rory was tested. They all were tested. And it won’t get any easier on Sunday with one of golf’s top prizes on the line.

    That’s the way it should be.