One American with no U.S. Open titles on his resume stands above the field and one stroke below par at the conclusion of moving day.
After many thought the rain would yield another Congressional type U.S. Open with the winner going very low, Merion has held strong and the field of the world’s top golfers struggled to stay under par.
Phil Mickelson was criticized for jet-setting across America to celebrate his daughter’s birthday, but proved the critics wrong, ending up in the final pairing and the only man under par.
Mickelson (-1) and Hunter Mahan (E) will be in the final group on Sunday with 18 of holes remaining in the toughest test in golf. Steve Stricker and Charl Schwartzel are also at even par.
“This is a really fun challenge,” Mickelson said. “It is a hard challenge but it is a fun challenge.”
Mickelson was in attack mode on the back nine trying to turn in a round that had him two over and +1 at the turn.
Two birdies catapulted him into the lead when he was teeing off on 18 and after a monstrous drive he was sitting pretty.
“It was a day I thought you could get under (par),” Mickelson said.
His second shot rolled through the back of the green and into the excruciatingly thick rough at this year’s open.
The rough caught the club, forcing a long par save that slipped low of the hole ending the day on a sour note but that didn’t seem to affect his spirits.
“I can’t wait to get back out and playing,” Mickelson said. “I think it is going to take an under par score tomorrow.”
Mahan got into the final group after posting a topsy turvy, one-under round with four birdies and three bogies.
Mahan seems up to the challenge of being in the final pairing of America’s championship.
“It’s all about patience isn’t it, it’s a U.S. Open,” Mahan said.
Luke Donald (+1) was in the final group until two errant chip shots and a double bogey dropped him from a share of the lead to two strokes back on the 18th hole.
Six players sit at +1 or lower at the end of Sunday but the world’s best golfers Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy are a combined 16 strokes over par.
Both players sit at eight strokes over par and are essentially out of contention for the final round.