U.S. Open, Day 3: The Calm Before The Storm?
By Torleif Sorenson on 6/15/13
(Soundtrack by Elvis)

Holding Steady

Phil Mickelson remains the statistical favorite to win the 113th U.S. Open, having carded a 70 to remain at -1 — the only golfer under par after 54 holes. Mickelson got there by grabbing birdies when he could, somewhat predictably at 10 and 11, but also a crowd-pleasing birdie at 17, which gave him the solo lead. Mickelson hit a nuclear 4-wood that just reached the ridge of the 18th hole, then another 4-wood on the screws from 274 yards. In fact, Mickelson's second was a little too good, rolling just off the back collar into a gnarly clump of grass, resulting in a bogey.

No-Foul Fowler

Rickie Fowler survived Merion the best on Saturday, carding a predictable 5 at the 510-yard "par-4" 5th hole. The rest of the way, Fowler took advantage of the shorter holes, carding birdies at 7, 10, the short 13th, and the usually-stingy 15th. His 69 was a refreshing surge from an ugly 76 on Friday, vaulting him into solo 9th going into Sunday, four shots back.

Within Striking Distance

Three players are tied for second, one behind Mickelson. Charl Schwartzel offset an early bogey with birds at 3, 4, and 7. He momentarily grabbed a solo lead after a birdie at the 10th, but 17 and 18 bled two strokes from his card. Schwartzel got in with a 69 to finish at level par.

Also tied for second after 54 holes is Steve Stricker, who dumped his tee-shot into the water at 9, but scratched back with birdies at the short 10th and at 12. Otherwise, Stricker was probably happy to get 15 pars, especially at the cruel 17th and 18th.

It's a good thing that Hunter Mahan knows how to play golf, because his fashion sense is horrendous. Clad in a burnt-orange shirt, grey pants, shoes with a lime-green outline and a sky-blue hat, Mahan looked ugly — but played beautifully. Setting aside a predictable bogey at the 5th, Mahan capitalized with birdies at 10, 12, and 13, then hit a lovely approach at 16 to birdie the hole and momentarily join the leaders at -2, but with the punishing 17th and 18th extracting bogeys, Mahan got in with a 69, leaving him at level par with two other golfers.

Luke Donald was missing fairways and greens to the right, but escaped trouble through most of the second nine, except for a predictable bogey at 17 and a shocking approach at 18 that he dumped short and right into the thick stuff. His third then skittered across the green, then he foozled his chip, then blew a bogey putt way past the hole. Donald was fortunate to get in with just a double. And yet, he is only two shots back and stands an excellent chance on Sunday.

Interestingly, the ninth-place golfer who is five shots back is the Cal-Berkeley amateur, Michael Kim, whose wild round included four birdies in the relatively benign stretch from 10 through 15. He collapsed at the end with a double-bogey at 17, book-ended by bogeys at 16 and 18.

Good For Gone

The two subjects of the recent soap-opera drama, Tiger Woods and Sergio Garcia, both made the 36-hole cut but shot themselves out of the championship on Saturday. Tiger opened with a birdie at the 342-yard par-4, then went colder than an IRS agent with bogeys at the long 3rd, 5th, and 6th holes. Four other bogeys, including at the cruel 18th, gave Woods a 76, tied for 31st.

Garcia's Roman candle-esque round took off with birdies at 2, 4, and 8, then crashed to earth on the second nine with bogeys at the long par-4 12th and 14th. Garcia hit three balls OB at 15, crawling away with a 10. Garcia's 75 left him tied for 44th.

No Margin For Error

With sunshine and relatively benign winds on Saturday, some people thought that scoring conditions would improve, but the USGA squashed any chance of that.

The closing hole played at 530 yards, so it should be no surprise that nobody registered a birdie there. The field averaged 4.7397 strokes, even worse than on Friday. But 18 turned out to be only the second-toughest hole on Saturday; another par-5 turned into a par-4, the 510-yard 5th hole averaged 4.7945 strokes and savaged the field with 40 bogeys, seven double-bogeys, and two "others."

A Bad Omen?

NBC showed a graphic late Saturday afternoon illustrating that in all four previous U.S. Opens at Merion, the third-round leader has never won. Also consider Mickelson's "record-setting" five runner-up finishes and the fact that eight other golfers are within four shots of the lead.

Previous history suggests an unsuccessful finish for Mickelson on Sunday. His work is cut out for him, for sure.

Cutting It Close

Sunday's forecast is for a 50% chance of showers and thunderstorms, mainly after 1:00 p.m. ET. Cloudy skies will include winds from 5 to 14 mph. Consequently, the USGA is taking a very calculated risk by going with pairs instead of groups of three on Sunday, with Mickelson and Mahan scheduled to go off at 3:20 p.m. EDT — as of this writing at 9:15 p.m. EDT.

The USGA got away with storm-dodging at Bethpage in 2002, but tempting this week's tempestuous East Coast weather is probably not a good idea.

Read an interesting golf article? Tip your editor!

Image via USOpen.com

[ comments ]
legitimatebeef says:
A weekend update on the oob? Whoa--this must be some big golf tournament.
GolfSmith7 says:
Sad to see Tiger go in the wrong direction. Does Phil win it? Nah, he's liable to do something nutty.
legitimatebeef says:
Lord, please light the way for Steve Stricker tomorrow. To see him breaking down in a heap of tears on the 18th green, it's what the world needs right now.
falcon50driver says:
Go phil
mmontisano says:
I hope Phil wins and dedicates it ToddRobb.
GBogey says:
I hate to be with Beef, but a Stricker victory would probably top Phil.
jasonfish11 says:
I'm in the Stricker crowd
legitimatebeef says:
Come on Gbogey the Beef aint so bad.
metnorm says:
I'm a Phil fan so of course I want him to win. But I am a Phil fan so I know he can screw it up pretty fast. Stricker wouldn't hurt my feelings at all if he won.
metnorm says:
Not looking good for Steve on the 2nd. That pretty much sucks hate to see that.
GolfSmith7 says:
Boy feel bad for Steve, can't believe a pro would hit two out of bounds like that and with an iron to boot.
ToddRobb says:
badcaddy Keep dreaming.
ToddRobb says:
I'm goin with Jason Day.
[ post comment ]
    New Products
    Caption This
    World Am
    How Bizarre!
Most Popular: