Five-time U.S. Open runner-up Phil Mickelson looks to avoid being relegated to that same fate yet again on Sunday, as he enters the final day of 2013's second major with a one-stroke lead at one-under par for the championship.
Nipping at Mickelson's heels are Hunter Mahan—his impending playing competitor—Charl Schwartzel and Steve Stricker, who at age 46 would become the oldest U.S. Open champion ever, per ESPN's Justin Ray:
Also not to be counted out are several of the sport's premier youngsters, headlined by American Rickie Fowler, who hasn't shown up consistently at majors but did fire the best Round 3 score with a 67.
Below is all the information you need to know with regard to online coverage information, along with a leaderboard that updates in real-time and several predictions for Sunday.
When: Sunday, June 16; Round 4 will begin at 8:44 a.m. ET
Where: Merion Golf Club, Ardmore, Pa.
TV: NBC, 12-7:30 p.m. ET
Live Stream: NBC Sports Live Extra at 12 p.m. ET
*The U.S. Open's official website will also stream the "Marquee Group" online and via mobile apps from 12-7 p.m. ET.
The Top Contender: Justin Rose
Rose has one of the game's best swings and is consistently one of the better ball strikers in the world. His Achilles' heel has historically been the flatstick, but on the tricky Merion greens, he's managed an average of 30 putts through the first three rounds.
It's not spectacular, though it is an improvement from his usual form. The 32-year-old Englishman entered the U.S. Open ranked 156th on tour in strokes gained putting.
2012 was the first time Rose ever had multiple top-10 finishes in majors, with a tie for eighth at the Masters and a joint third-place effort at the PGA Championship. Now he's in position once again to capture that first major title.
There is Charl Schwartzel, the 2011 Masters winner who could be argued as a better competitor against Mickelson's lead. Stricker also possesses superior experience to everyone, yet he does have the disadvantage in terms of distance.
However, the time seems right for either Mickelson to hold on or for one of the elite players to get the major monkey off his back. Among those, Rose seems the most fit to do it right now.
The mechanical sturdiness of his swing can hold up under pressure, and his distance allows him to have at least a puncher's chance on the brutal final five holes. When par is the main goal, it's a dream scenario for Rose, who is also seventh in scrambling on tour this season.
The Wild Card: Rickie Fowler
The 24-year-old American star was unusually steady in his opening-round 70, but struggled to a 76 on Day 2. That was remedied when the field started sagging back, and suddenly his 67 looked phenomenal.
Fowler has all the game to contend at a major; he just simply hasn't put himself in the position more than once, which came at the 2011 British Open when Fowler tied for sixth.
In the video press conference to the right, he mentions how he felt everything started clicking and coming together. That was definitely the case, because he missed just four greens and three fairways in regulation—the precise numbers Mickelson had in his opening-round 67.
The three-under score is the best of the tournament thus far, and with the intensity ratcheting up for Sunday, it isn't likely to be toppled.
There is no fear in Fowler—he'll try any shot at any time. It's a matter of how sound his course management is, and if it's reminiscent of what he did on Saturday, he has a great chance for a big breakthrough.
The Champion: Phil Mickelson
The stars may finally be aligning for Mickelson at a U.S. Open—as long as he doesn't make a critical mental error, which has prevented him from winning at least one by now.
Mickelson causes anguish and ecstasy for the spectators who vicariously live through his every shot. Swashbuckling, attack-mode golf seems illogical to play on Merion's tight fairways, but it's working for Lefty right now.
Although it is worth noting that Mickelson is being tamer and less liable to take unnecessary risks. After all, now that his 43rd birthday has arrived, there aren't many opportunities to capture this elusive trophy.
It has been approximately seven years since Mickelson has held a 54-hole lead at a major, and that was before his infamous collapse at Winged Foot in the 2006 U.S. Open, per ESPN Stats & Info:
A lot of storylines are worth rooting for on Sunday, but Mickelson is so beloved in the U.S. that the passionate Philadelphia-area crowd will undoubtedly throw as much support in his corner as possible.
If Mickelson doesn't break through now, he may never do so. This is yet another golden opportunity, and he'll finally cap it off the right way.
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