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The Early Lead
Posted at 06:55 PM ET, 06/18/2011

2011 U.S. Open live blog: Rory McIlroy posts third-round 68, goes into Sunday at 14-under with eight stroke lead


Rory McIlroy makes more history at the U.S. Open by becoming the first-ever to reach 14-under par. (Ricky Carioti - WASHINGTON POST)

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We’re live blogging the U.S. Open, so to keep up with what’s happening, hit refresh.

8:05 p.m.: Thanks for joining us once again on this live blog. Check back tomorrow to join Cindy Boren here on The Early Lead as Rory McIlroy looks to close out his historic U.S. Open.

8:00 p.m.: Here’s how the leaderboard looks: McIlroy at 14-under followed by Yang at 6-under. Garrigus, Westwood and Day are tied at 5-under, while Garcia, Kuchar and Jacobson are at 4-under par. Kyung-tae Kim is alone at 3-under, and five others posted 2-under par, including Davis Love III.

7:57 p.m.: The largest three-round lead ever surrendered was the six-shot lead Norman had, as Costas just pointed out. Basically, a lot would have to happen for McIlroy to lose on Sunday. The way he’s playing...it doesn’t seem like it’ll happen.

7:53 p.m.: Yang finishes with a par and he’ll stick around in second place and be paired with McIlroy tomorrow. At 6-under, he’s eight shots back. And with a par on 18, a third-round 68 for McIlroy, a three-round total of 199 at the Open.

7:50 p.m.: A double bogey yesterday and a chance for birdie today on No. 18 for McIlroy. He could finish up his third round here at 15-under.

7:48 p.m.: Okay, now Sergio is in at 4-under.

7:43 p.m.: McIlroy’s drive on 18 lands perfectly in the right side of the fairway. He double-bogeyed this hole yesterday, but will look to see if he can finish with a positive result and perhaps with an even more impressive advantage.

7:39 p.m.: McIlroy avoids his first three-putt of the tournament, putting his attempt right in the middle of the cup. He remains at 14-under as he heads over to No. 18 to close out his third round.

7:37 p.m.: McIlroy’s long putt attempt goes by the cup, he had two ridges to get up from around 70 feet or so. Very similar to Kuchar’s shot earlier. Yang also misses his putt and settles for par.

7:34 p.m.: Sorry, I was a bit quick on that. Kuchar wrapped a 2-under 69, Sergio is on 18 right now and his drive lands right in the middle of the fairway.

7:32 p.m.: Sergio and Kuchar both into the clubhouse at 4-under par. Both shot 2-under on the day.

7:25 p.m.: Yang with a birdie that puts him alone in second place at 6-under par, eight shots behind McIlroy after 16.

7:24 p.m.: McIlroy out of the bunker past the pin, but maintains a chance at birdie. From about 12 feet, McIlroy just misses past the right side of the cup. He’ll stay at 14-under par.

7:19 p.m.: Yang with an outstanding shot at No. 16, gives himself a very manageable putt for eagle. McIlroy follows by putting his second shot into the bunker on the front side of the bunker.

7:17 p.m.: While no one is making up a ton of ground on McIlroy, Sergio and Garrigus have provided some really entertaining shots and putts. Kuchar nearly dropped a 70-foot birdie putt, too.

7:11 p.m.: With a birdie on No. 15, Robert Garrigus joins a pack at 5-under. Also at 5-under are Westwood and Day, who shot 6-under 65s earlier today, and Yang.

7:03 p.m.: Another “Let’s Go Rory” chant breaks out.

7:01 p.m.: After being hidden behind trees to the left and knocking a shot off the pin, Sergio birdies to get to 3-under. NBC talking heads say it may be the best birdie of the tournament.

6:56 p.m.: Sergio smacks a shot off the pin. A short jog in the fairway, reminded me a bit of old Sergio.

6:53 p.m.: And McIlroy responds by becoming the first to reach 14-under in a U.S. Open with an eight foot putt or so. He increases the lead to nine strokes at Congressional.

6:52 p.m.: First birdie of the day for Y.E. Yang and he’s back to 5-under after 11 consecutive pars. Makes it a three-way tie for second...eight shots behind McIlroy.

6:51 p.m.: Another fantastic shot by McIlroy puts him on the green in regulation — yet again — and he continues to make history. Right now no one is close to touching him and he doesn’t not look fazed.

6:40 p.m.: Anyone else out there doing anything worth noting? Let’s see: Robert Garrigus is at 2-under today through 13 and 4-under for the tournament, while Brandt Jobe is at 2-under today and 3-under for the tournament. Jobe birdied two after two consecutive bogeys. No one making any runs right now, though.

6:38 p.m.: Yang misses a short putt and NBC points out he is one of three players without a birdie today. McIlroy with another par keeps it at 13-under.

6:34 p.m.: It’s been a more subtle performance from McIlroy today, so it’s actually worth pointing out that he has increased his lead by two strokes today through 12. We’ll see if that lead expands any more.

6:28 p.m.: A tap-in par for McIlroy on No. 12 to maintain his eight-shot lead over Westwood and Day, who both shot 6-under 65s today.

6:19 p.m.: McIlroy with a perfect tee shot right down the middle of the fairway. I’m taking notes for my buddy’s wedding party golf outing next Saturday in Chicago. Pretty sure doing this live blog is giving me an advantage.

6:15 p.m.: A big fist pump from McIlroy as his putt cuts hard to the right and drops. That birdie moves him back to 13-under par and increases the lead to eight strokes.

6:09 p.m.: McIlroy in the left rough about 188 from the hole, ball below his feet and he nearly holes it. Wow. It bounces past the pin, but that was a shot that took some...courage.

6:07 p.m.: McIlroy went into the rough on his tee shot on No. 11. He’s managed a few times to get out of trouble, though. Wonder if anyone else wants to get to 6-under or so? Anyone? No? Okay.

5:56 p.m.: McIlroy pitches out of the bunker and it lands just on fringe and rolls past the cup, but he’ll have a chance to save par. A really great bunker shot, but McIlroy missed the par putt and settles for his first bogey. That joins the only previous blemish of his weekend, the double bogey on 18 yesterday.

5:49 p.m.: Phil into the clubhouse with a 6-over 77 on the day, and he’s 7-over for the tournament. Meanwhile, McIlroy’s shot goes over the pin and into the bunker. Could be looking at a bogey on No. 10.

5:43 p.m.: McIlroy just misses an eagle putt as it breaks hard to the left. He’ll birdie it and drop to 13-under for the second time this tournament, the only player ever to reach 13-under in a U.S. Open. That increases his lead to eight shots.

5:41 p.m.: About 240 out from the hole on No. 9, McIlroy puts it on the green over the pin. He’ll have a chance to increase his lead before the turn. Lee Westwood with his lowest round in 53 career majors, according to NBC, a 6-under 65. Jacobson just misses birdie on 18 but that concludes a best-ever round in a major, 5-under 66.

5:35 p.m.: By the way, Phil followed his double bogey on 16 with a double bogey on the par-4 17th as well. Rough finish for him. He drops to 6-over on the day and 7-over for the tournament. He made the turn 1-under for the day.

5:32 p.m.: Jason Day closes out with a birdie on 18 to finish with a 6-under 65 today that pulls him into a tie for second at 5-under for the tournament.

5:27 p.m.: Looked like McIlroy was going to be able to increase his lead to eight strokes and drop to 13-under, but he missed his birdie putt and stays at 12-under. The lead remains at seven.

5:22 p.m.: Phil just double-bogeyed the par-5 16th top drop to 5-over in the tournament. McIlroy meanwhile with a nice shot on No. 8, putting his shot to the left of the pin.

5:13 p.m.: McIlroy misses his birdie putt on No. 6 and has to settle for another par. He stays at 12-under and remains seven shots clear of Westwood.

5:12 p.m.: Lee Westwood jumps into second place with an eagle putt that broke hard left to right. Westwood is 5-under on his last four holes to take sole possession of second place through 16.

5:11 p.m.: Jason Day with a birdie on 16 joins the fray at 4-under. Also there: Jacobson, Robert Garrigus and Yang.

5:06 p.m.: McIlroy with a par on No. 6, maintaining his eight-stroke advantage over the field.

5:04 p.m.: Graeme McDowell jokes on NBC that he often leaves practice rounds with McIlroy demoralized about his own game and that McIlroy may be the best player he’s ever seen. McIlroy had a good day, 2-under on the day with an eagle on nine and is even par through 54 holes.

5:02 p.m.: McIlroy after laying up out of the rough on his second shot drops his third shot past the hole and spins it back to give himself a good chance at birdie. Great reaction from the crowd. His lead has already increased from six to eight. Will he make it nine?

5:00 p.m.: Lee Westwood with his third birdie in a row drops to 4-under on the day and 3-under for the tournament through 15.

4:52 p.m.: McIlroy’s tee shot at No. 6 finds the first cut of rough but disappears in the television picture. Could it be trouble? McIlroy’s done well getting out of any issues early on.

4:47 p.m.: The birdies seem to be drying up a bit at the top of the leaderboard. Many took advantage of Nos. 5-9, and that’s where McIlroy sits now. McIlroy has birdied No. 6 the last two days and eagled No. 8 yesterday. He just birdied No. 5 with a putt just inside 15 feet and goes to 12-under, increasing his lead to eight strokes.

4:33 p.m.: McIlroy’s second shot goes off to the right. People clearly rooting for a continuance of the greatness of Days 1 and 2. After saving par on No. 3, he had to try to do so again out of the bunker and he nearly holed it. Short game is on early for McIlroy early.

4:23 p.m.: McIlroy with a great par save on No. 3 and he’ll stay at 11-under for now. Plenty in the field making birdies, but still no one within six shots of McIlroy. Just goes to show how impressive he was in the last two days.

4:12 p.m.: Russell Henley, a 22-year-old amateur, just dropped his fourth birdie of the day and is now at 4-under, tied with Yang for third place.

4:08 p.m.: McIlroy very nearly knocked down a very long birdie putt and taps in for par. He’s still at 11-under on the day...and he’s still six shots in front of anyone else. Yang, meanwhile, bogeys and drops to 4-under.

4:04 p.m.: My editor, Micah Pollack, points out to me that the gallery was chanting “Let’s go Rory” as he came off of the first green. They’re getting all Happy Gilmore up at Congressional.

4:00 p.m.: Yang just misses birdie on the first, with his putt lipping out. McIlroy also misses strong past the hole and settles for par. He’ll stay at 11-under for now, still six shots ahead of Yang. Meanwhile Jacobson just nailed another birdie putt — his sixth of the day — to get to 5-under for the tournament through 11.

3:56 p.m.: McIlroy starts with another green in regulation. Yang follows by putting his second shot onto the green, as well. Both will have a good opportunity for birdie.

3:52 p.m.: Yang goes right down the middle of the fairway with his tee shot, and McIlroy sends his just off the fairway but in very low rough. A solid ovation for McIlroy.

3:50 p.m.: Yang and McIlroy teeing off now.

3:45 p.m.: Jacobson just turned his fifth birdie on the day at No. 10 and is now down to 4-under for the tournament and 5-under on the day. He’s just one shot out of second place and now is seven back of McIlroy. Yang and McIlroy set to tee off in five minutes.

3:43 p.m.: A front nine 34 for Chappell, who drops to 1-under for the tournament. Phil with a par on No. 9 after missing about a nine-foot putt for birdie. Sergio Garcia just teed off, and we’ll track him now, too. He’s 2-under and looking to make up ground.

3:35 p.m.: Phil does what Phil can do. He goes out of the rough and, instead of laying up, goes at the green and into the bunker. The thought of those on NBC is that he was looking for that exactly. His short game will give him a chance. Jason Day and Fredrik Jacobson now 4-under on the day, Day through 10 and Jacobson through 9, and both are 3-under for the tournament.

3:27 p.m.: Things getting interesting about eight shots back of the leader. Henrik Stenson just birdied No. 7 to drop to 3-under on the day and for the tournament and that brings him within eight of McIlroy. Five others have shot in the red today to pull to 2-under on the tournament and within nine of McIlroy. Plenty of birdies out there. We’ll see what McIlroy does with it when he tees off in 20 minutes.

3:25 p.m.: Just after birdies on Nos. 6 and 8, Phil misses the fairway way to the left on No. 9, a hole many are birdying today. Rough shot there for Phil just as he gained some momentum.

3:20 p.m.: Gene Wang reports that the pin placement at No. 9 is smack dab in the center of the green. “Players enjoying while they can. No chance it’ll be anywhere near there on Sunday.”

3:18 p.m.: Phil converts at No. 8 and is back to even par for the tournament. Giving his fans something to get excited about.

3:17 p.m.: Steven Stricker is also making a run today. He’s birdied his third straight at No. 9 and is 3-under for the day and 1-under for the tournament.

3:15 p.m.: Another update from Gene Wang: Even though he has virtually zero chance of winning his first U.S. Open this weekend, Phil Mickelson remains a crowd favorite--perhaps THE crowd favorite--at Congressional.

Galleries were five deep along the first several fairways and tee boxes, with fans young and old trying to catch a glimpse of the multiple major champion. Some even shouted, “Happy birthday, Phil,” a belated acknowledgment for his 42nd on Thursday.

The good feeling soon turned sour though after Mickelson missed a short putt for par at the first. Still his gallery offered encouragement as he strolled up the second fairway.

“Let get it back, Phil,” was the common cheer.

3:13 p.m.: Phil didn’t miss eagle by much, spinning his shot back on No. 8 and just missing by about six inches.

3:05 p.m.: While Phil remains at 1-over, let’s take a look at some other movement. Jason Day has birdied three in a row and is 3-under through eight and 2-under overall. Henrik Stenson has birdied two of the last three holes and is 2-under through five and 2-under for the tournament. Bo Van Pelt is also 2-under through six and 1-under for the tournament, as is Fredrik Jacobson, who is 2-under through seven.

2:54 p.m.: Phil chips out from the rough, below the ball, and nearly holes it. Puts it about a foot or so from the cup and nabs a birdie. He’s back to 1-over through six. Chappell follows by missing a 20-foot putt for birdie and he’ll settle for par.

2:50 p.m.: Phil went for the green about 245 yards from the pin. He just barely caught the lip of the rough, just to the left of the green. He’s not in a bunker, but he was awfully close to giving himself a short putt for eagle. Still a very manageable opportunity, though.

2:42 p.m.: Phil finds the fairway at No. 6 and could be going for the green in just a few minutes. The par-5 sixth is statistically the easiest hole on the course.

2:40 p.m.: Graeme McDowell just eagled No. 9 to drop to 2-under on the day through nine. He’s now at even par overall.

2:38 p.m.: Phil misses his birdie putt and settles for par on No. 5. He stays at 2-over, while Chappell goes to even through five.

2:34 p.m.: Phil looks like he’s right up against a tree, or near one, though the NBC commentators say that he’s actually got a pretty good lie. Wow, and Chappell with an absolutely terrific shot from the fairway to just inches from the cup and he’ll have a tap-in birdie. Phil cleared the bunker and rolls his inside 15 feet for a birdie putt.

2:25 p.m.: And just after I blog that Chappell bogeys the hole. Sorry about that jinx. Phil pars No. 4 and he’ll move on to the fifth. Mickelson birdied Nos. 5, 6 and 8 yesterday.

2:22 p.m.: Kevin Chappell, the 24-year-old paired with Phil, has looked good early on. He birdied No. 3 and just played a beautiful shot out of the bunker on No. 4. Will be interesting to see if he continues to perform well in front of Phil-sized galleries.

2:15 p.m.: A weather update from Gene Wang at Congressional: “Not bad at all out here. A little more humid than last two days, but not much sun. There’s also a nice breeze.”

2:10 p.m.: Just a quick note on the cut line, and I’ll borrow from Barry Svrluga’s tweet: “The cut is made at 4-over 146. Among those missing by a shot: Cink, Scott, Mahan, Rose, Casey. By 2: Watney, Els, Poulter, Crane.”

2:05 p.m.: An update on Phil from Gene Wang at Congressional: Mickelson drove into bunker at par 3 2nd, blasted within several feet but missed the par putt and had to settle for bogey.

2:04 p.m.: Phil couldn’t convert a sand save on No. 2 and bogeys, dropping to 2-over through two. Some guys to watch who have been opening eyes early on in the third round: Webb Simpson, who is 5-under through 16 today and is down to 1-under for the tournament. Harrison Frazar is 3-under on the day through 10 and at even par.

1:55 p.m.: From Kathy Orton: Of the 21 players who didn’t finish their second round on Friday, Tim Petrovic was the only one who did not return Saturday morning to finish. Petrovic, a 44-year-old PGA Tour player, had one hole remaining when play was suspended and stood at 11 over par.

Two players who were on or near the cut line failed to make the cut after returning to the course to finish their second rounds on Saturday morning. John Ellis was at 3 over with two holes to play (Nos. 17 and 18). The 31-year-old who was trying to make his first cut in a U.S. Open could afford one bogey, but not two. Unfortunately, he made bogey on both holes. Jesse Hutchins, a 29-year-old Hooters Tour player playing in his first U.S. Open, was at 4 over with three holes to play. He made pars on the first two holes, but made bogey on his final hole to miss the cut.

1:50 p.m.: Welcome back to the U.S. Open live blog as Day 3 is underway at Congressional. Plenty to catch you up on and I’ll do so over the next 15 minutes. Phil Mickelson just teed off at 1:40, but Rory McIlroy will not get started until 3:50. Keep it locked here for updates throughout the day.

MORE:

Boswell: McIlroy grows up before our eyes

Jenkins: Getting into the swing of things

McIlroy stands alone at the top

Battle at the bottom of the leader board

Phil struggles to find his groove

Lemonade stand gets the squeeze in Md.

U.S. Open Central: Follow The Post

U.S. Open Channel: The Post’s videos from Congressional

Fans’ perspective: Your photos from Congressional

By  |  06:55 PM ET, 06/18/2011

 
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