Phil Mickelson shook off a shaky start to finish strong and end the third round of the 2013 U.S. Open with sole possession of the lead.
He leads Hunter Mahan, Charl Schwartzel and Steve Stricker, who are tied for second at even par.
Take a look at the leaderboard, and then I'll recap the third-round action.
Low scores were not easy to come by on this day.
On moving day at the U.S. Open, Merion Golf Club made the biggest statement of all. With some breeze, but otherwise ideal scoring conditions, the famed course would not be tamed, and Mickelson's one-under-par score for the tournament has him as the only player breaking par.
It was a plodding day on the course, and not just because of the high scores.
The USGA has launched an ad campaign with the slogan "While We're Young" urging golfers to maintain a fast pace of play. Maybe they should start showing it to the professionals. Golf writer Geoff Shackelford explains:
Of course, with all the difficult shots Merion has forced these guys into, it is hard to blame them for taking their time.
Given the difficulties this layout has presented, it is a bit of a shock to see Mickelson be the steadiest player out there. Lefty has a tendency to get himself into trouble and then either pull out a miraculous save, or compound the problem with aggressive play.
He has been patient and smart at this tournament. His front nine on Saturday was a good example of this.
Mickelson suffered through some wild shots on the front side, but he played level-headed and steady golf. He wound up with seven pars and two bogeys on the front to fall to one-over for the tournament and lost the lead he shared at the start of the day.
The front certainly could have been worse, but some accurate putting saved him. And as Phil knows, par is a respectable score at the U.S. Open. Check out his reaction after this putt that put him under par:
He began to dial in on the back side as he rolled in consecutive birdies to start the second half, which put him at one-under for the tournament. Mickelson then embarked on a string of five consecutive pars, while others struggled on the final holes.
A wonderful tee shot on the par-three 17th set him up for a rare birdie on the hole, and with that, Lefty had sole possession of the lead at two-under.
That resulted in a two-stroke swing over playing partner Luke Donald, as Donald missed his putt and fell out of first place.
After a frustrating Round 2 where he tallied four consecutive bogeys on the front nine, Donald was outstanding in his third round. He began the day at even par, and dropped below the magical line with a birdie on the par-five fourth.
He gave the stroke back with his first bogey of the day on the sixth hole, but the world's former No. 1 moved back to one-under with a birdie on the par-four eighth.
A birdie on the par-four 10th moved Donald to two-under and pushed him briefly to the top of the leaderboard.
Both Donald and Mickelson dropped strokes on 18. Phil bogeyed, while Donald picked up a costly double to sit two behind Mickelson.
Still, Donald will certainly be in the mix on Sunday, which as the PGA Tour tweeted, is new territory for him:
Charl Schwartzel's Streaky Day
Charl Schwartzel's day got off to a dubious start. After a par on the opening hole, he bogeyed the par-five second to fall to two-over for the tournament. Undeterred, he took his game to another level.
Back-to-back birdies on the third and fourth holes moved him to even par. He later birdied the seventh and 10th, breaking up the acceptable monotony of 10 pars between holes No. 5. and No. 16.
Cruising along, he holed six pars in a row to reach the 17th tee at two-under. The difficult closing holes had worn him down by this point, though, and he bogeyed the final two holes to sit at even par for the tournament.
Mahan Works His Way Into Sunday's Final Group
After firing a one-over 37 on the front, Hunter Mahan caught fire on the back. He birdied three of the first four holes to start the second nine and moved to one-under for the tournament.
He briefly grabbed a share of the lead at two-under with a birdie on the par-four 16th, but gave that stroke right back with a bogey on the par-three 17th. Then, just like Schwartzel, he picked up his second straight bogey on the menacing 18th hole to sit at even par for the tournament.
Still, as the first player in the clubhouse at even par, he will be in the final group.
Horschel Battles Through Rough Patch
This GIF does a nice job of summing up Billy Horschel's front nine:
Horschel, who began the day in the lead at one-under, wasn't terrible, but he was slightly off on the opening nine. He picked up six pars and three bogeys on the front side to slide down the leaderboard.
However, the 26-year-old didn't let this faze him. He picked up birdies on 11 and 13 to move to even par and land right back in the mix.
He bogeyed the 14th, but then calmly registered nothing but pars the rest of the way to sit at one-over overall.
This was a supremely impressive display of resiliency for the inexperienced Horschel.
Tiger and Rory Struggle
The world's Top Two golfers looked like anything but on Saturday. Playing in the same group and starting the day just four behind the leaders, this dynamic duo faltered.
Rory fired a 75 to sit at eight-over for the tournament and tied for 25th. His 75 was still good enough to beat Tiger for the day.
Woods' 76 has him at nine-over for the tournament and tied for 31st.
ESPN's Bob Harig offered a little tidbit on one part of Woods' skill set that was suffering:
Tiger's short game was also off all day. He's struggled with pacing on these greens, and he missed several within 10 feet that you'd expect him to drill.
Rory's putter didn't serve him much better, and now the pair will simply look for a moral victory to finish the tournament.
So, the two best golfers on the planet may be well out of contention, but we still have what should be a fabulous final round on tap for Sunday.
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