On Saturday at the 2013 U.S. Open, the real contenders were separated from the pretenders, and it's made for what should be a thriller from start to finish on Sunday.
With Phil Mickelson retaining his lead over the field at Merion Golf Club, only a handful of players remain still within striking distance. Anything close to par seems to be good enough for a late-round run on Sunday, with Mickelson's one-under score as the only below-par score of the field.
Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy, along with dozens of other stars, have played their way out of contention in this year's U.S. Open, but that doesn't mean Sunday will be any less exciting.
Let's take a look at the live leaderboard with some big storylines heading into Day 4.
Biggest Storylines for Day 4
Is the 23-year Wait Over for Mickelson?
Phil Mickelson has built himself quite the resume over the course of his professional career, but nothing is more glaring about it than the lack of U.S. Open championships.
This year is Lefty's 23rd at the American championship, and he's finished in second place a record five times there. And he's playing like he has that type of experience, as the only player below par through 54 holes.
It won't just be a special day for Mickelson if he wins, though. Per ESPN, Sunday's final round is his birthday and that should set up for a day filled with emotions.
Mickelson was on an overnight flight just to make it to Merion in time for his tee time early Thursday (per USA Today), but he hasn't played like he's lacking sleep or preparation.
There's no doubt that he's playing the best golf in the field, and is only a couple of missed opportunities away from having a bigger cushion.
Most of the golf world's biggest stars failed to show up this weekend, but Mickelson isn't one of them. He's holding it up for the rest of them and is in a great position to win his first U.S. Open.
Is Steve Stricker Poised to Make History?
For a golfer who has been in the top 10 for most of his career, it's surprising to say the least that Steve Stricker has never won a major.
But if that changes at Merion on Sunday, it'll be history in the making for the U.S. Open, according to Justin Ray of ESPN.
The 46-year-old has played arguably the most consistent tournament thus far, shooting a 71, 69 and 70. Undoubtedly the most impressive was his 69, but mostly because it was a on a treacherous Day 2 where most golfers' scores tanked.
Stricker sits just one shot out of the lead at even par, and coming off a strong 70, he's putting together consistency at Merion, which has proven to be quite hard to do this weekend.
Could a Rising Star (Hunter Mahan, Justin Rose) Be in the Making?
Justin Rose has spent the entire tournament sniffing out the lead, and he'll go into Sunday as one of the biggest favorites despite shooting a 71 and sitting two shots out of the lead.
Rose spent most of Saturday fighting for the lead in what would be the 32-year-old's first major championship, but two straight bogeys on 17 and 18 put him at one-over par with Luke Donald and Billy Horschel.
He's been in contention for majors before, and if he's saved his best for Sunday, he could finally get that monkey off his back.
He changed up the way he prepares for majors this time around, according to Golf Channel's Kelly Tilghman.
The South African-born English golfer has climbed to fifth in the world rankings, and that's no fluke as he's proven to be one of the up-and-coming stars. But a major victory on Sunday would only prove that he's a future star.
He won't be the only one with that chance, though. Hunter Mahan is one shot closer at even par, and a strong 69 on Saturday has him moving into the title picture. Placing in the final group for Sunday is already an accomplishment, ESPN's Justin Ray stated:
Mahan himself took to Twitter to express his excitement on a successful Day 3:
Mahan has racked up top-10 major finishes in his career, but he has yet to break through and finish better than sixth in one. If he can stay close to where he is going into the final round, he could do that and more.
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