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Jordan Spieth's Chambers Bay problem and other U.S. Open things to watch on Sunday

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The stage is set for a fantastic finish at the U.S. Open. Here are five things to expect Sunday in the Pacific Northwest.

Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

UNIVERSITY PLACE, Wash. -- We started this U.S. Open week with a wide open field on an unpredictable new course in a region that never hosts major championships. We knew nothing. After 54 holes, we have a few insights to apply to what should be a dramatic final 18 on Sunday at Chambers Bay. Here are five things to watch for in the final round:

1. There will be 18th-hole setup controversy

Chambers Bay is a unique and wild departure from most American major championship venues in many ways, and one of them is the par on a given hole keeps switching from day to day. The 18th has changed from a par-5 to a par-4 and back to a par-5 through the first three rounds.

The expectation is that USGA executive and course setup wizard Mike Davis will maintain the trend and switch it back to a par-4. The 18th is difficult regardless of the par, but moving the tee box up and making it a par-4 significantly alters the landing zones.

That's a problem for the most high-profile player on the leaderboard, Jordan Spieth. He called the par-4 setup on Friday the "dumbest hole he'd ever played in his life" and "unbelievably stupid." When he was told the FOX mics caught this review on the broadcast, the typically diplomatic Spieth doubled down with the media after the round and again called it dumb.

After his third round, Spieth was told it looked like the 18th would become a par-4 again on Sunday. When asked about how his approach might change, he responded that he was considering the option of playing it down the neighboring first fairway.

chambers bay

It's probably not what the USGA wants to hear or how they want the final hole of their national championship played. It was practically a dare to Mike Davis -- a preemptive challenge to see if they follow through.

It will add a lot of distance to the hole, but that he's even considering it, and publicly stating so, will make for plenty of build-up and discussion Sunday morning and, God forbid, if the championship comes down to that 72nd hole. Spieth himself said, "There's a good chance it comes down to that hole." He double bogeyed on Friday when it was playing as a par-4.

UPDATE: It worked! Well, maybe. Whether influenced by Spieth's comments or just commons sense, Davis and the USGA have set the 18th up as a par-5 for Sunday. Oh, there's definitely still controversy though and it will be a topic all day. Notah Begay has already said that the organization and Davis "caved" to Spieth. So it will be a fun day of discussion on the 18th!

2. Dreams will die by the seventh fairway

The FOX production crew will definitely have a few names weeded out of their coverage by the time the field hits the eighth tee. The hardest stretch of the course is holes four through seven. It's set back in this former gravel pit, and it gets dusty, baked out and firm. All four holes rank among the eight hardest for the week.

The narrow sixth green can get comical with a nasty pin placement, and the seventh is the hardest scoring hole on the course. It's a monster uphill par-4 with a 4.446 average through three rounds. The long hitters have a bit of an advantage on the seventh, and Dustin Johnson could separate himself through this part of the course. Mitigating the damage through this stretch will be most crucial to the eventual winner, and the coming implosions at either the fouth or seventh will send a few players into TV and leaderboard obscurity for the rest of the day.

3. The Seattle crowd will show and have an impact

By all accounts, this is one of the the worst major championships ever for spectators. Fans are paying loads of cash for tickets, showing up to Chambers Bay and then trudging through the sand and gravel unable to actually watch any golf. The property is just not conducive to accommodating large groups of spectators. The pathways lining the fairways are typically dug between large mounds, so you're unable to watch while walking like you might at the traditional tree-lined parklands U.S. Open venue. So the USGA placed an emphasis on large grandstands. The only problem with those, however, is they're set back 25, 50 and 75 yards from the green that they are purported to view.

And despite all these setbacks, despite so many fans on the grounds removed from the actual golf, the crowds have been impressively loud and rowdy. Alcohol helps, of course, and it got interesting Saturday around the final group.

That was at the sixth, which has had an especially boisterous crowd the last two days grazing around a concessions tent at the side of the fairway.

It's not unique to that hole. There are spots throughout the course where the fans are being heard with plenty of creative heckles and shouts of support. This is the first time the U.S. Open has come to the Pacific Northwest, and the first major in the area since 1998. And on top of that, there's no regular PGA Tour event anywhere close to the area. So despite all those spectator drawbacks to this venue, the Seattle-area crowd was ready for their major and have showed nicely. Sunday's final groups will hear it, and possibly have to manage it, all afternoon.

4. Jason Day, fan favorite?

Jordan Spieth is the golden boy. He's had the largest ovations for much of the week, and a Spieth birdie at the 17th hole is the loudest I've heard the crowd there. But then Jason Day happened. The crowd was well aware of the vertigo symptoms that Day was playing through after collapsing to the ground Friday. He did not look great and according to his caddie, was on the edge of withdrawing multiple times Saturday.

No one wanted to see that, and the fans appreciated what they were watching and his effort to play.

It crested with that birdie-birdie finish to settle his spot in the Sunday final pairing at the U.S. Open. He stole the crowd and became the headliner with that finishing sequence, and they'll be ready to go again Sunday afternoon.

Day will be ready too. "I can understand why the Seahawk fans are pretty intimidating at times," he joked after his opening round. "The fans here are great."

There's some American star power around him, but if he's in it and playing well, the roars will be just as loud, if not louder, for the Aussie.

5. A late charge and back nine scoring chances are out there

One drawback of U.S. Opens is that they can lack Sunday drama because leaderboard movement is so difficult. It's the "toughest test in golf," which means players are typically grinding out pars and just trying hang on and shoot an even-par round. At the Masters, the Sunday leaderboard can fluctuate wildly because of all the eagle and birdie opportunities. It can get manic at times. The same goes for the PGA, which went off the rails at Valhalla last year as a host of world-class players tried to one-up each other late in the day. The movement at the U.S. Open, however, is usually just a couple guys imploding off the leaderboard.

But we just watched Jason Day incomprehensibly play his way into a tie for the lead with an inward 31. And that was while he was struggling to stand up. Spieth was on track for a 30 or 31 until he bombed the 18th (as a par-4) on Friday. He still shot a 2-under back nine with a double bogey.

There are holes out there where a player can make eagle, or birdie, and put together a late run. The 12th has been the most fun hole all week. It's a drivable par-4 and 14 of the 15 eagles this week have been made on that hole. There were 11 on the hole on Thursday alone, the most in any single round since the USGA started recording stats. Due to the wind, setup and firm fairways, the 16th was drivable on Saturday too.

It's not easy and it's not a given, but it's available for someone to grab late on Sunday.

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