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Ranking the potential U.S. Open winners by storyline

OAKMONT, Pa. – A major championship always produces a multitude of story lines.

But the truth is, some are just more compelling than others.

Leader Shane Lowry's two birdies to finish his third round Sunday morning left 11 players within eight shots of the lead entering the final round.

Here they are, counting down from the least-exciting story to the most, in one reporter's mind:

11. Scott Piercy. The 37-year-old is making his fourth U.S. Open start. Even his official bio on the championship's website is boring: "Owns three PGA Tour victories, most recently winning the 2015 Barbasol Championship. Won twice on the Web.com Tour in 2008. Tied for fifth in the 2013 PGA Championship. Played his collegiate golf at San Diego State University."

All of that makes for a fine career – but an unexciting one.

10. Daniel Summerhays. He has played in 18 events on the PGA Tour this season, making 15 cuts and posting seven top-25 finishes. The 32-year-old also became the first amateur to win on the Web.com Tour back in 2007. He gets bonus points for making the field as an alternate after just missing out during sectional qualifying.

9. Branden Grace. I bet you didn't know the 28-year-old South African is ranked No. 13 in the world. He also has some good finishes in majors, including a tie for fourth last year in the U.S. Open at Chambers Bay and a tie of third at the 2015 PGA Championship.

Grace earned his first PGA Tour win in April at the RBC Heritage and is a two-time Presidents Cup participant. None of that is likely to resonate with the casual fan, though.

8. Zach Johnson. He'd become a three-time major winner and have three legs of the grand slam. That's Hall of Fame stuff. But Johnson's methodical approach, while effective, will never be mistaken for exciting. He's destined to be one of those players forever underrated.

7. Shane Lowry. The current leader holds a four-stroke lead and given the lack of birdie holes at Oakmont has to be considered a huge favorite to win. Lowry has good credentials, ranking 41st in the world, but the most compelling part of his chase Sunday will be whether he can block out the nerves to finish the job.

6. Lee Westwood. Way back in 2013, Westwood pondered on what the lack of a major meant for his career.

"Majors are the only thing missing," he told Sports Illustrated. "Maybe I'll never win one. Maybe I will. I could. ... Keep working hard and trying to get myself into the position. If it happens, it happens. If it doesn't, it doesn't.'"

Since then, it appeared Westwood's window was closed. But a tie for second at the Masters in April showed he's still a factor, and finally winning one at 43 would be the biggest accomplishment of a decorated career.

5. Bryson DeChambeau. Pull off an eight-shot comeback, and DeChambeau immediately becomes golf's next big thing. Truthfully, he might be that as it is, but a U.S. Open win would start a conversation about whether DeChambeau should be grouped with golf's elite.

4. Sergio Garcia. Back at the 2012 Masters, Garcia famously said "I'm not good enough" to win a major. "I don't have the thing I need to have. In 13 years, I've come to the conclusion that I need to play for second or third place."

They were stunning comments at the time. More stunning would be if he proved himself wrong Sunday.

3. Andrew Landry. Everyone loves an underdog, and they don't come much bigger than the 624th ranked player in the world. Landry would be the lowest-ranked player to ever win a major by a mile. Sure, nobody knows who he is, but that makes the story better.

2. Jason Day. The world's No. 1 player would add to his growing legacy if he can overcome an eight-shot deficit. He'll likely need Lowry to give some shots back, but that's entirely possible at a U.S. Open. Day will also need a Johnny Miller-like round. If he pulls it off, it may go down in history as one of the best rounds ever.

1. Dustin Johnson. The best player to never win a major finally breaking through – coming off last year's choke job on the 72nd hole – is a dream script. Factor in Johnson's other failures in a major, and his redemption story would be the best one.

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