After five runner-up finishes, Phil Mickelson is now on the cusp of an elusive U.S. Open championship. Here’s the skinny heading into the final round at Merion Golf Club, where the four-time major champion leads by two shots:
What it means: Despite a cross-country commute Wednesday night, Mickelson now leads at Merion with just 18 holes to play. It’s the first time he’s held a 54-hole lead at a major since the 2005 PGA Championship, which Lefty went on to win. He’ll need another strong round to hoist the trophy that has most eluded him, though, as Stricker, Donald and Rose headline the group chasing him, each in search of a maiden major win.
Round of the day: After a disappointing 76 in the second round, Rickie Fowler bounced back in impressive fashion to card a 3-under 67 Saturday. Fowler dropped his lone shot of the day at the difficult par-4 fifth hole, but more than made up for it with four birdies across his final 12 holes. The round brought the former Oklahoma State standout back to 3 over for the week, a jump of 28 spots on the leaderboard into ninth place.
Best of the rest: After narrowly missing out in the first major of the season, Jason Day once again played himself into contention thanks to a 2-under 68 Saturday. The Aussie sprinkled five birdies around three bogeys, and was able to card a 2-under 33 on the far more penal inward nine. The round moved Day back to 2 over for the tournament, and he will begin the final round tied for eighth, just three shots off the pace.
Biggest disappointment: Entering the third round just four shots off the lead, Tiger Woods appeared poised to make a run toward his 15th major title, especially after a birdie on the opening hole. Instead, the three-time U.S. Open champion saw his chances slowly erode Saturday afternoon, making seven bogeys en route to a 6-over 76. The score ties Woods’ highest total in the U.S. Open as a professional and surprisingly marks the 11th consecutive weekend round in a major where Woods failed to break 70. His high-profile playing partner, Rory McIlroy, didn’t fare much better Saturday, carding a 5-over 75.
Storyline heading into Sunday: Undoubtedly, the main story for the final round is Mickelson's chase for the championship that has caused him so much heartache over his career. The 54-hole leaderboard is not short on potential stories, though, as Stricker could become the oldest ever to claim the U.S. Open at age 46, while Donald and Rose both hope to validate their top-10 world ranking by adding a major championship to their credentials as Adam Scott did just two months ago.
Quote of the day: “This is a really fun challenge. It is a hard challenge, but it is a lot of fun. I can’t wait to get back out playing.” – Mickelson