Irish interest in the US Open is over for another year – as American golf fans await the best birthday present ever for Phil Mickelson.
Mickelson leads by a shot going into the Father’s Day shoot-out at Merion Golf Club in Philadelphia with England’s Luke Donald and South Africa’s Charl Schwartzel hot on his tail.
But Irish hopes faded rapidly in Saturday’s third round as Rory McIlroy and playing partner Tiger Woods dragged each other down, Padraig Harrington imploded again and amateur Kevin Phelan went backwards after making the cut.
McIlroy played for the third day in a row with Woods but their starting three under totals turned to eight and nine over respectively by the close of play.
Champion in 2011, McIlroy birdied the first but drove out of bounds on the second and mixed two birdies with seven bogeys overall.
The world number two from Ulster said: “If you’re just not 100% on top of your game, it’s going to expose some of your flaws or weaknesses.
“I’ve been working on the swing quite hard over the last few months, and it looks really good on camera. I just get on the course and I hit a couple of bad shots and I guess that it sort of makes you lose confidence a little bit during the round.
“It’s just a bit of a struggle and it seems like I’ve had a few too many tournaments this year where I’ve struggled in one round or a couple of rounds and not been able to put it all together.
“I don’t feel like it’s too far away at all. It’s just a matter of believing and staying patient.”
Harrington joined Woods on nine over after a four over par 75 on Saturday while Waterford amateur Phelan finished the day 16 over.
McIlroy is now tied-25th with Harrington tied-31st and Phelan tied 65th.
Former Major winner Harrington isn’t giving up however. He told the Irish Times: “Every round you try to play your very best and shoot a good score and hope for a miracle. That’s what you’ve got to hope for.
“Who knows? Maybe there is a 62 in me in the final round. You never know what’s going to happen.”
After hitting a triple bogey seven on the 14th, Harrington added: “Players are hitting shots they wouldn’t normally hit because the US Open makes them afraid of making mistakes.”