Anything can happen during the final round of a major. Anybody who follows golf closely knows that. We've watched blow-ups in all shapes and sizes: Dustin Johnson's final-round 81 the last time the U.S. Open was played at Pebble Beach, to Jordan Spieth's infamous quadruple bogey at the 2016 Masters. So golf fans are trained to laugh off anybody saying any major is over before the final round even starts.
According to the stats, however, this one might be pretty close to being decided between just two golfers. Golf Digest contributor Dr. Lou Riccio, a lecturer at Columbia University who uses predictive analysis and modeling to forecast winners in golf, has built a model to predict every player's odds of winning, round-by-round score and odds of finishing in the top 10. This is as close to a two-horse race as you can get, Riccio says.
Riccio's model gives Gary Woodland the slight edge—with a 48-percent chance of winning, compared to a 46-percent chance of winning for Justin Rose. Sitting four back of Woodland's lead, Riccio gives Brooks Koepka a slightly higher than a 5-percent probability of winning. Same with Louis Oosthuizen, who is also four back of Woodland. Rory McIlroy, who's 6-under and five back of the lead, has just below a 5-percent chance of pulling off the comeback, according to Riccio. Chez Reavie, one better than Rory, is just above 4 percent.
All those stats being true, Riccio knows the stats don't tell the entire story. Gary Woodland is holding his first 54-hole lead at a major, and the pressure of the final round isn't necessarily quantifiable by stats.
"A hot front nine by either Brooks Koepka or Rory McIlroy, and an early bogey by either of the leaders, can change those probabilities pretty quickly. Even Oosthuizen can't be counted out. I think those are the only ones to watch."
Here's Riccio's entire model, which includes odds of each player finishing in the top 10, too.