If Rory McIlroy can continue to improve his play at the U.S. Open, he could have a stellar weekend. After producing a three-over 73 on Thursday, McIlroy bounced back with an even-par 70 on Friday.
That may not sound like much, but Merion Golf Course has been difficult to tame. Three over par puts McIlroy just four strokes behind the leaders.
He's certainly capable of putting together a stellar day and the course is playing difficult enough to trip up the leaders.
Here's how I see McIlroy's day going on Saturday.
The Par Threes
After McIlroy went one over par on the short holes on Thursday and Friday, it is tough to imagine him doing much different on Saturday. These are tricky holes that don't allow for much gambling.
In the first round, he bogeyed the 17th hole. During second-round play he birdied the second hole, but gave the shot back on the ninth hole.
It was a different path with the same result. I predict he'll remain even on these holes again on Saturday. Instead of bogeys and birdies, McIlroy will produce four pars, which isn't bad for this tournament.
The Par Fours
McIlroy was one under par on the par fours on Friday. These holes exemplified the steadiness he showed all day. If he can produce another one-under performance on these holes on Saturday, he will be able to make a move. With 12 par-four holes, success here is the key to the tournament.
Unfortunately, I don't see him performing quite as well here. McIlroy is the type of player who is at his best when he begins a tournament well; he was decent at best on Thursday.
Also, the third day of tournaments have been rough for McIlroy this year. He hasn't produced a score lower than a 71 on Saturday in any tournament. Moreover, none of those previous courses were playing as tough as Merion is.
Look for McIlroy to slip to one over on these holes.
The Par Fives
There are only two par fives on the course and McIlroy's play has been erratic on them. On Thursday he was a combined one under, but he was one over on Friday. For the year, he has scored a birdie or better on par fives just 43 percent of the time.
Playing it close to the percentages, McIlroy is likely to birdie one of the holes and par the other on Saturday. He'll be one under again on the long holes, but that may not be good enough.
Another even-par 70 isn't bad, but it probably won't put him in the top five. Because of his rough start, McIlroy is going to have produce at least one round in the 60s to have a shot at winning.