It's Sunday at the U.S. Open, where five-time runner-up Phil Mickelson holds sole possession of the lead. It's a championship that's been the white whale of an otherwise hall-of-fame career, a Sunday that's been full of close calls and memorable meltdowns. A win at Merion would be a signature feather in the cap for the resume of an aging Mickelson, and it would leave only the Open Championship left in his pursuit of a career grand slam.
Mickelson has slept on the at least a share of the lead after all three rounds so far, but he'll have another lengthy wait on Sunday to think about the challenge ahead of him. He'll anchor the tee sheet alongside Hunter Mahan, a fellow elite American player who's in desperate need of a major championship. They'll tee off No. 1 at 3:20 p.m. ET, with a scheduled finish in primetime on NBC around 8 p.m.
Mickelson and Mahan are two of the best American players in the world, their paths crossing multiple times in their veteran careers. They're familiar with each other and will be comfortable -- relatively for a U.S. Open -- playing together in the final pairing. They've won and lost Ryder Cups as teammates, and it was Mickelson who came to the aid of Mahan during that emotional press conference after the loss in Wales. Via The Telegraph:
Phil Mickelson, who only found form in his singles win over Peter Hanson, poured blame on himself, saying: "When I didn’t win any of my first three points, I felt more disappointment than I’ve ever felt. I let some of these opportunities slide."
Ahead of that final pairing is an hour of tee times loaded with the best players in the world. Steve Stricker and Charl Schwartzel are in the penultimate group after two steady loops through the East Course on Saturday. Stricker carded the low round of the tournament on Merion's brutal back nine, rebounding from a double bogey to get to even-par. Schwartzel, the former Masters champ, held the lead at multiple points in the third round, and has already proven himself in the tightest, most intense settings in golf. A national championship win for either Stricker or Mickelson would provide the media with plenty of Father's Day copy.
The third-to-last group features the duo of Justin Rose and Luke Donald, two majorless Englishmen grinding for a career-defining victory. Both have won enough money over the past five years to live comfortably for multiple lifetimes, but the pressure to turn that success into a major title is immense, particularly across the pond. They carry the banner for a strong European leaderboard, with 10 Euros tied for 16th or better.
Sunday is the first day that the USGA has the national championship back on schedule. They've been playing catch-up since the three-plus hour rain delay at the start of the tournament on Thursday, implementing back-to-back 7:15 a.m. restarts until finally making the cut on Saturday morning. Even with the field cut in half, split tees and threesomes were put in place yet again in order to ensure the completion of the third round Saturday night and thus locking in twosomes for the Sunday finish -- a scenario Mike Davis indicated they strongly preferred.
The day will start with Robert Karlsson going off No. 1 at 8:44 a.m. by himself. Hopefully, pace of play won't be an issue for the lanky Swede, but it has been a problem all week at Merion. Saturday was particularly brutal, with the rounds exceeding five hours and lengthy waits on multiple tees. The irony, of course, is that these crawling rounds come during the week the USGA is making a PR push to speed up the game -- except when it comes to setting the example with the best and most visible golfers in the world.
Given the full day of tee times and the leaders not going out until after 3 p.m., the USGA has to hope for clear weather throughout or else a Sunday night finish could be in jeopardy if the current pace holds. Keep in mind that the U.S. Open also utilizes an 18-hole Monday playoff if there is a tie, instead of the sudden-death format that would require more daylight on Sunday night.
Here is the complete tee sheet for Sunday's final round at Merion (all times ET):
|08:44 AM||Karlsson, Robert|
|08:55 AM||Khan, Simon||Sutherland, Kevin|
|09:06 AM||Stanley, Kyle||Stefani, Shawn|
|09:17 AM||Hedblom, Peter||Phelan, Kevin|
|09:28 AM||Peterson, John||Weaver, Michael|
|09:39 AM||Howell, David||Kaymer, Martin|
|09:50 AM||Herman, Jim||Weibring, Matt|
|10:01 AM||Presnell, Alistair||Weir, Mike|
|10:12 AM||Alker, Steven||Johnson, Dustin|
|10:23 AM||Laird, Martin||Stallings, Scott|
|10:34 AM||Teater, Josh||Thompson, Nicholas|
|10:45 AM||Chappell, Kevin||Ogilvy, Geoff|
|10:56 AM||Coetzee, George||Knox, Russell|
|11:07 AM||Pettersson, Carl||Siem, Marcel|
|11:18 AM||Garcia, Sergio||Simpson, Webb|
|11:29 AM||Choi, K.J.||Hearn, David|
|11:40 AM||Kim, Bio||Scott, Adam|
|11:51 AM||Langley, Scott||Matsuyama, Hideki|
|12:02 PM||Bettencourt, Matt||Woods, Tiger|
|12:13 PM||Harrington, Padraig||Parry, John|
|12:24 PM||Huh, John||Kuchar, Matt|
|12:35 PM||Donaldson, Jamie||Pan, Cheng Tsung|
|12:46 PM||Goggin, Mathew||Snedeker, Brandt|
|12:57 PM||Madsen, Morten Orum||McIlroy, Rory|
|01:08 PM||Dufner, Jason||Kelly, Jerry|
|01:19 PM||Loar, Edward||Watson, Bubba|
|01:30 PM||Els, Ernie||Van Pelt, Bo|
|01:41 PM||Hoffman, Charley||Westwood, Lee|
|01:52 PM||Casey, Paul||Lawrie, Paul|
|02:03 PM||Lingmerth, David||Senden, John|
|02:14 PM||Colsaerts, Nicolas||Poulter, Ian|
|02:25 PM||Fernandez-Castano, Gonzalo||Stenson, Henrik|
|02:36 PM||Fowler, Rickie||Kim, Michael|
|02:47 PM||Day, Jason||Horschel, Billy|
|02:58 PM||Donald, Luke||Rose, Justin|
|03:09 PM||Schwartzel, Charl||Stricker, Steve|
|03:20 PM||Mahan, Hunter||Mickelson, Phil|