We're set for an epic Day 3 at the 2013 U.S. Open on Saturday, as the world's best golfers move into contention for the year's second major and some surprising names assert themselves as contenders.
A rain-shortened Thursday turned into treacherous course conditions on Friday, causing all but two golfers to move to even par or worse for the tournament. Phil Mickelson used a 25-foot birdie on the 18th hole to move into a tie with BIlly Horschel at one-under.
Behind the two co-leaders, it's a crowded field with dozens of names still within striking distance of the lead at Merion Golf Club.
Here's the live leaderboard for Day 3 at the U.S. Open and predictions for Saturday's moving day.
Saturday Predictions for Top Contenders
Phil Mickelson has played like a golfer who's tired of coming up short at the U.S. Open thus far.
According to the New York Post, Mickelson didn't leave California until late Wednesday due to his daughter's eighth-grade graduation despite teeing off at about 7 a.m. ET on Thursday. It created a buzz, largely due to his opening-round 67.
Posting a 72 on Friday might look like a regression on paper, but given the nasty conditions that vastly affected every golfer's score, it might've been his best round of the tournament. He dominated every tee shot, but struggled to make birdie putts before finally getting a big one on 18.
Lefty has finished in second at the U.S. Open a record five times, and you can bet that statistic is eating at him as he looks ahead to the rest of the weekend. It's the monkey on Mickelson's back. Never winning a U.S. Open could turn into a glaring asterisk on the resume of one of the game's all-time greats.
At one-under, Mickelson has a great shot to silence that talk if he can keep control of Merion.
Prediction: 70 (total: -1)
You may not have heard of Billy Horschel before this weekend's action at Merion, but you should get a close look at the 26-year-old: he's the real deal.
Horschel topped the field on Friday with a round of 67, defying the notion that the second round was treacherous and tying himself for the lead with Mickelson.
He also made history with his round, achieving something that hasn't been done at the U.S. Open in quite a while (per ESPN Stats and Information).
There's no doubt that the pressure is mounting on the up-and-coming star. Never before mentioned in the same sentence as folks like Mickelson and Tiger Woods, now Horschel has a great opportunity to win the U.S. Open.
I don't expect him to come out nervous or fall off early, but to expect the same level of success from this inexperienced player would be way too much to ask.
Prediction: 72 (total: +1)
Tiger Woods, much like the rest of his pairing in Rory McIlroy and Adam Scott, has been hard to read so far in the U.S. Open.
Woods has hit his fair share of errant shots, but he almost always seems to save par. He's taken plenty of chances, and he has earned his fair share of birdies in the process.
His round of 70 on Friday kept him within four shots of the lead, and he's well within striking distance heading into moving day.
The seemingly hands-down favorite in every major lately, Tiger hasn't picked up a major championship victory since the 2008 U.S. Open. That five-year drought has been the major story of the golf world in the past few years.
It's not ideal for him to have to mount a four-shot comeback on a course as mysterious as Merion, but if he can handle the conditions just slightly better than the rest of the leaders, he can put himself in great position heading into the final round.
Or as Tiger calls it, 'red shirt day.'
Prediction: 68 (total: +1)
McIlroy's score in each of his first two rounds has matched Woods' (73 and 70), but they got there taking very different paths.
He started off Friday's action by finishing the first round, and finished three-over par despite starting the day at even par. But he shook off that rough opening to the day by shooting 70, rebounding on many holes and executing brilliant shots from tough lies.
You can just tell in major championships if McIlroy's mind is ready for the moment. As told by his numerous breakdowns in majors, him being prepared to play his best golf isn't always guaranteed.
However, we've seen enough from the Northern Irish star here at Merion to put away any thoughts of McIlroy having another dud performance.
The way McIlroy has been able to save par after some rough shots leaves a lot to be excited about for Saturday. If he can shore up his long game, expect him to make a surge.
Prediction: 67 (total: even par)