San Francisco, CA – Pinehurst, NC (SportsNetwork.com) - Phil Mickelson entered Saturday's action with a glimmer of hope to make his way back into contention, but a 2-over 72 during the third round dropped him well off the pace.
The 6-time runner-up viewed Pinehurst as his best chance to finally break through and win the U.S. Open as this year's rendition of the championship was set up to be short-game oriented.
It will not happen, however, as he now sits 13 shots behind leader Martin Kaymer at 5-over.
It was the aforementioned short game that let Mickelson down on Saturday, as he hit just eight greens in regulation and needed 28 putts during his third round.
Mickelson took his disappointing play to this point in stride, though, as he stated after his round, "If I hit it better and make some putts (on Sunday), I think I can shoot 4- or 5-under par, end around even, finish second again."
This type of play should not be that much of a surprise to those who have paid attention to Mickelson this year as he has failed to record a top-10 finish in 14 starts on the PGA Tour.
He did share second place at the European Tour's Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship in January.
Mickelson, who will turn 44 on Monday, will now have to wait another year for a chance to complete the career grand slam, but next on the agenda is to try to successfully defend his title at the British Open next month.
PINEHURST SHOWS IT'S TEETH
After seeing plenty of red numbers through the first two days of the championship, it was the complete opposite on Saturday as only two players managed to shoot under par.
The first two days of the tournament saw overnight rains make the greens more accessible, but those storm clouds have moved away and we finally got to see how hard this course can be.
Players went from averaging 73.23 strokes on Thursday and 72.89 strokes on Friday to 73.82 in the third round.
The tough scoring conditions have dwindled the total amount of players under par from 13 at the start of the day to just six entering the final round.
COMPTON MAKING BEST OF SECOND (THIRD?) CHANCE
One of the two players to post an under-par round on Saturday was Erik Compton, who is making his second career major appearance.
Compton matched the low round of the day with a 3-under 67 to share second place with Rickie Fowler at 3-under-par 207. Fowler was the other player to card an under-par round and also shot 67.
Another fact about Compton is he is currently living with his third heart after being diagnosed with a heart condition at the age of nine. He received his first heart transplant at the age of 12, and had a second transplant in 2008.
In his first major appearance at the 2010 U.S. Open, Compton failed to make the cut.
This year, he had to survive a 5-man playoff at a sectional qualifying event just to make the field and he is definitely making the best of it.
If he is able to win on Sunday, he will join Jerry Pate (1976), Steve Jones (1996), Michael Campbell (2005) and Lucas Glover (2009) as sectional qualifiers to win the U.S. Open.
But that would probably be the least impressive thing about Compton's story.
* Kaymer is trying to join Walter Hagen (1914), James Barnes (1921), Ben Hogan (1953), Tony Jacklin (1970), Tiger Woods (2000, 2002) and Rory McIlroy (2011) as the only players to win the U.S. Open in wire-to-wire fashion with no ties.
* Compton has recorded a personal-best 69.92 scoring average during the final round this season.
* The par-4 second was the most difficult hole on Saturday as players averaged 4.67 strokes. The hardest hole through the first three rounds was the par-3 sixth, which has played at 3.38 strokes.
* The par-5 fifth played the easiest on Saturday with an average of 4.43 strokes. The fifth has also been the easiest over the first three days with a stroke average of 4.81.