Saturday's Birdies and Bogeys

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Saturday's Birdies and Bogeys

June 14, 2013

Photo By: Getty Images

Photo By: AP Photo

Photo By: Getty Images

Photo By: Getty Images

Photo By: Getty Images

Photo By: Getty Images

Photo By: Getty Images

Photo By: Getty Images

Photo By: AP Photo

Photo By: AP Photo

Photo By: AP Photo

Birdie: Phil MickelsonIf it feels like we've been here before, that's because we have. But this may be a different Mickelson than the one who has a record five runner-ups in the national championship. Unlike the Mickelson who's committed some adrenaline-filled mistakes in the Open, this one has shown remarkable restraint. After his birdie putt on 17 on Saturday gave him the outright lead, Mickelson chose a conservative tee shot on 18, laying way back but still finding the fairway. That he went on to make bogey was immaterial since his intent was to avoid an even bigger number. It's the sort of pragmatism that often pays off on weeks like these. "I feel better equipped than I've ever felt," Phil said of his Sunday chances.

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Bogey: Dynamic DuoFor a fourth straight day (Including a practice round), the world's two best golfers -- and besties -- teed it up together at Merion. When both birdied the opening hole, it appeared like they might feed off each other and make a spirited run up the leader board. Not so much. The Nike-clad duo struggled the rest of the way, both playing their way out of contention. A final bogey by Tiger on No. 18 matched his career-worst score at the U.S. Open with a 76 and ended any chance of the two playing together again on Sunday (McIIroy shot 75). Maybe that's not the worst thing for either of them.

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Birdie: USGAWith murmurs of Merion being tricked up to offset its lack of length, a slightly friendlier setup greeted the players on Saturday. In particular, the USGA moved the tee up on No. 10 to 280 yards, allowing players to have a go at the green with less than a driver. That hole kicked off a four-hole stretch that Johnny Miller described as possibly the easiest he could ever recall in a U.S. Open, ending with the baby par-3 13th, which was shortened to 98 yards. Of course, the finishing five holes -- especially the par-5-diguised-as-a-par-4 18th -- are playing as difficult as any in recent Open history.

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Bogey: Slow PlayThere's a reason the USGA made clear its new pace of play initiative wasn't about pro golf. That's because they likely sensed what was awaiting in the Open. How slow was it? The final group of Phil Mickelson, Billy Horschel, and Luke Donald played the third round in five and a half hours. Much of this could be attributed to the extenuating circumstances of a very difficult golf course with unique logistical challenges. But at least symbolically, the USGA picked a curious week to make such a statement.

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Birdie: Hunter MahanHunter Mahan contending at a rain-delayed U.S. Open in the Northeast? If that sounds familiar, that's because the Monday finish at Bethpage Black in 2009 was the closest the 31-year-old has ever come to winning a major championship. Mahan's chances were crushed on the 16th hole that day when his approach shot bounced off the flagstick. On Sunday, he'll play in the final pairing at one of golf's biggest events for the first time. On one hand, he should feel comfortable playing with his friend and Ryder Cup teammate Phil Mickelson. On the other, he shouldn't expect to get much Philly support playing with the crowd favorite.

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Bogey: Hunter Mahan's WadrobeJohnny Miller asked if he got dressed in the dark. Paula Creamer was incredulous on Twitter. For all of Mahan's fine play on Saturday -- he shot 69 to move to within a shot of the lead -- his technicolor combination of powder blue hat, neon yellow shoes, and orange shirt was hard to get past. Within reach of his first major championship, Mahan might want to reconsider his outfit for Sunday. Unlike in Ben Hogan's day, they don't shoot in black-and-white anymore.

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Birdie: Little GuysThis diminutive course deserves a couple of players on the leader board who won't be confused with NFL tight ends. Charl Schwartzel (even) is 5-foot-11, but is only slightly wider than a 1-iron, and both Luke Donald (one over) and Rickie Fowler (three over after a 67) are charitably listed as 5-9. They all follow in the spirit of Ben Hogan, who at 5-7, 137 pounds proved a powerful golfer doesn't have to take up a lot of space.

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Bogey: Sergio GarciaWho would have thought that a Thursday quadruple bogey on the 15th hole wouldn't be the lowlight of a wild week for Garcia? Heck, it wasn't even the low point on the 15th hole? Amazingly, Sergio needed two more shots to play No. 15 on Saturday after hitting, as Dan Jenkins described it, "a small bucket" of balls out-of-bounds. Garcia was also greeted with a "Fried Chicken!" heckle prior to his opening tee shot. At this point, he might wish he hadn't even made it to the weekend.

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Birdie: Steve StrickerA shot off the lead to start the day, Stricker began with eight straight pars, only to make double bogey when he found the hazard on nine. From there, though, he steadied. Thanks to crisp ball-striking and clutch putting, he birdied two of the next three holes and was able to walk away with pars on the brutal 17th and 18th holes. Playing in just his seventh tournament of the season, Stricker at even par has perhaps his best chance to capture his first major title, which at 46, would also make him the oldest U.S. Open champion in history.

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Birdie: Michael KimThe reigning college player of the year picked up a local caddie, who for most of Saturday was drawing a bigger crowd than he was. But that changed during a torrid stretch on the back nine, when the Cal rising junior birdied four of six holes on the back nine, eliciting comparisons to Jim Simons, the amateur who held the 54-hole lead at the 1971 U.S. Open at Merion. It didn't last -- Kim played his last three holes in four over -- but at four over he's still on the first page of the leader board, and is five shots clear of the next lowest amateur.

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Bogey: Humbled Tour ProsRemember that 62 that Merion was supposed to give up this week? Let's assume Robert Karlsson isn't going after it on Sunday. The big Swede shot 86, one of five players with scores in the 80s in the third round. And these were all tour players who made the cut, not amateurs who made it through sectional qualifying. Kyle Stanley made a 10 on 14. Kevin Sutherland and Shawn Stefani each had two triples. Let's keep that in mind the next time we speculate on Open courses poised to get "torn apart."

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