Only one player starts the final round of the US Open under par. Come on down Phil Mickelson, who turns 43-years-old today.
Mickelson, five times a runner-up at this event, is one solid round from running off with a major birthday gift after a 70 left him one clear of the field on one under par.
With two holes to play that distinction belonged to Luke Donald, chasing the first major of his career at the age of 35, but three dropped shots over the closing two holes took him back to one over. On a day of wildly fluctuating fortunes at the top of the leaderboard Donald was not alone in falling to punishing blows from a merciless Merion.
John Senden, who shared the lead with Donald after six holes, shipped four shots in five holes to close on five over. Charl Schwartzel, Hunter Mahan and Justin Rose each dropped shots at 17 and 18. Mickelson, who led overnight on one under par, slipped down the page with two early bogeys, but fought back to re-claim pole despite a bogey at the last.
“Every shot requires such focus because every hole can bite you. It will be a lot of fun in the final round. It will take an under par round tomorrow but I’m in great shape,” said Mickelson, who goes out in the final group with Mahan.
With six players within two shots of Mickelson’s lead, including Donald and Rose, a tight finish is guaranteed. Rose said: “One or two shots on this golf course can disappear in a heartbeat. There's a lot of momentum swings out here. I feel like I'm in great position. If you would have said to me, Thursday morning, hey, this is where you're going to be entering Sunday, I would absolutely have taken it.”
Lee Westwood birdied his last four holes for a 69 to close on six over par. Paul Casey continued his renaissance with a 71 to finish alongside Westwood in a share of 16 place.
Tiger Woods shot a 76 for his highest 54-hole aggregate at the US Open, nine over par. Rory McIlroy was only marginal better, carding a 75 to close on eight over.
Sergio Garcia underscored the difficulty facing the world’s finest golfers with a ten at the 15 hole. It took him four attempts to put his ball in play off the tee. Thereafter he finished the hole in regulation.
“Funnily enough, I only hit one bad shot today and I made 10. My first shot was into the wind and it went out of bounds. My second one I thought it was even better and it went out of bounds by five inches. The third one wasn't great.”