US Open Golf 3rd round preview

Phil Mickelson had a putting round to forget yesterday, but remains in pole position for his first US Open after carding a highly respectable 72.

Coral make Lefty, one of only two players under par at the halfway stage, their 4/1 favourite ahead of English pair Justin Rose (13/2) and Luke Donald (7/1), who are both just one shot adrift at level par in what is turning out to be an especially fascinating and wide-open major – just two shots separate the first ten on the leaderboard.

Others prominent in the betting include familiar grinders like Steve Stricker (10/1) and Ian Poulter (18/1), both also on level par. Poulter, one of 68 players unable to complete their second round yesterday when Merion ran out of daylight, will have a further four holes to negotiate this morning

Lurking a little further behind at +3 and still by no means out of it is Tiger Woods and Coral rate the world number one a 7/1 chance to notch his 15th major. Woods seems to have been treading water over the first two days and has clearly been impeded by an injury to his left elbow, but is still on the premises, as is playing partner Rory McIlroy (16/1), who ended the day on the same mark.

Adam Scott and Lee Westwood, both vying for the lead on Thursday evening, endured nightmare second rounds and both were left wondering whether they would even make the cut at 7 over when the horn sounded to end proceedings last night.

They have been replaced near the top of the leaderboard by two much less familiar names: young American Billy Horschel and Taiwan amateur Cheng-Tseung Pan.

Horschel, who won his first PGA tournament only seven weeks ago, demonstrated what a talent he is by hitting all 18 greens in regulation to join Mickelson in the lead. He is already renowned for his accuracy, a quality which will stand him in such good stead on this tight and unforgiving track. Coral quote him at a respectful 10/1 and don’t be surprised if he sticks around over the weekend.

It will be a shock, however, if Pan (200/1) can stay in the mix. Another just one shot off the lead with nine holes of his second round still to play), he is having the time of his life, but one suspects that it will not last

Mickelson wanted to be ‘Fairway Phil’ this week and he has certainly impressed with his accurate tee-to-green play over the first two days, only to be let down by some poor putting – he missed two tiddlers yesterday.

But a first US Open winner on his 43rd birthday this Sunday is still very much on.

Written by Jon Freeman