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U.S. Open notes

Y.E. Yang teed off as Rory McIlroy's playing partner Saturday looking to put some pressure on the 22-year-old who folded at the Masters. Nothing doing. "I wanted to catch up a little bit," said Yang, who shot 70 and saw his deficit increase from six to eight strokes. "But at the same time, the player with the better shot, with the better putt, with the better composure is leading right now. So I have no regrets. Right now, the better player is leading. I think it's actually a race for second place right now."

Right behind Yang by a stroke is Jason Day (65), Lee Westwood (65) and Robert Garrigus (68).

Day played the opening three rounds with McIlroy at the Masters. The Australian shot 32 on the tougher back nine Saturday, finishing with a rare birdie on the 18th. All that, and he was still nine shots behind.

"The way he's playing out there, it's almost Tigeresque," Day said. "It's unbelievable how good he's playing. Obviously, to have the lead that he has in the U.S. Open is pretty ridiculous, and at such a young age. The next generation is starting to kick up now, and he's the guy that's leading it."

Westwood, considered the best player without a major, still isn't ready to concede.

"He had a big lead in a major and didn't deal with it before," Westwood said. "There's pressure on him with regards to that. So we'll see. All I can do is control my game and try and shoot as low a score as possible for me."

Mickelson sees good golf

Phil Mickelson had to settle for the role of good-luck charm. The golfer who came into the U.S. Open with plenty of attention because Tiger Woods is out, struggled with his game. He shot 42 on the back nine and finished with a 77. That's 7 over and 21 strokes from the front. So the U.S. Open title will escape him once again. "It just kind of fell apart during the end," he said.

But his playing partners have shined.

He played with three-round leader Rory McIlroy for two days and saw the youngster set multiple U.S. Open records. On Saturday, he watched Open rookie Kevin Chappell shoot 2-under par 69, including an eagle on the par 5 16th.

A bit too easy

The U.S. Open usually isn't set up for aggressive play and low scores. But rain Thursday and Friday turned Congressional soft, and there were 26 rounds under par Saturday, the most ever for a U.S. Open third round.

Jason Day, top left, and Lee Westwood, bottom, fired 65s. Webb Simpson was among the first out on the course and shot 66, a number shared by Fredrik Jacobson.

"It's target golf. … It's not a true U.S. Open test out there, to be honest," defending champ Graeme McDowell said. "There were some tough pins out there, no doubt. I'd like to see it tougher than it was."

The previous record for subpar rounds in the third round of a U.S. Open was 24, set at Medinah in 1990.

The USGA made no apologies for the low scores, attributing that to the weather, and Rory McIlroy.

"If he wasn't in the field, we'd be talking about a pretty tight U.S. Open," said Jeff Hall, part of the team setting up the golf course. "Rory is just obviously playing at a level that's a bit above everybody else this week. There certainly are a number of birdies being made, but some folks are not finding it quite as easy as others."

Times wires

Careful, not even one yet

Fellow Irishman Padraig Harrington said Rory McIlroy ultimately may be the one to challenge Jack Nicklaus' 18 majors.

"What is he, 22 years old? If you are going to talk about someone challenging Jack's record, there's your man," said Harrington, above. "Winning majors at 22 with his talent, he would have 20 more years … where he could be competitive. It would give him a great chance."

"Paddy, Paddy, Paddy," McIlroy said, shaking his head with a smile. "I'm still looking for my first one. … It's nice to have all these complimentary things said about you, but until you actually do these things, they don't mean anything."

Amateur hour

Patrick Cantlay is 1 under and tied for 15th after his third-round 70 Saturday. The highlight came when the 19-year-old Californian holed out from the bunker at No. 15 for a birdie.

"That was really exciting," Cantlay said. "It was kind of a tough bunker shot because the green runs away from you, but I nipped it pretty good and it ended up going in."

Cantlay just completed his freshman year at UCLA and this month won the Jack Nicklaus Award as the nation's top college golfer.

Fun while it lasted?

Amateur and St. Petersburg native Michael Barbosa, 28, finished his suspended-by-darkness second round Saturday morning with a second consecutive 12-over 83 and missed the cut. At least he got to stay another day.

U.S. Open notes 06/18/11 [Last modified: Sunday, June 19, 2011 12:20am]
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