Bethesda, Maryland: Play has started in the final round of the U.S. Open, and it will take something monumental to prevent Rory McIlroy from winning the trophy.
With the first players making the turn around Congressional on Sunday morning, McIlroy was preparing to take an eight-shot lead over Y.E. Yang into the final round.
McIlroy had a four-shot advantage heading into Sunday at the Masters in April, but shot 80 and finished 15th. This time, he's sitting on a lead double that size after shooting 14-under 199, a U.S. Open record for 54 holes. Before McIlroy, no player had been lower than 12 under at the U.S. Open.
No one has blown more than a five-shot lead at the U.S. Open. No one has lost any major when leading by more than six shots going into the final round.
Early on a muggy, overcast day at Congressional, there were signs that more low scores were to be had on a Blue Course taking a beating despite measuring 7,574 yards — second longest in U.S. Open history.
South Korea's Sangmoon Bae made five birdies on the front nine to turn at 31. Anthony Kim was 3 under through nine holes and Justin Hicks was 2 under.
It has been a less-than-brutal week at the U.S. Open, which prides itself on setting up the toughest test in golf but has been hampered by rain that has created soft conditions.
Lee Westwood and Jason Day each shot 65 Saturday to climb up the leaderboard, tied for third with Robert Garrigus. They were still nine shots behind McIlroy. Fredrik Jacobson shot 66 and was tied with Matt Kuchar and Sergio Garcia at 4-under par.
Westwood was among the very few refusing to cede the tournament to the young Northern Irishman.
"They don't give trophies away on Fridays and Saturdays," he said.
But when it is ultimately given away Sunday, most players expect McIlroy to be holding it. And looking for more.
"What is he, 22 years old? If you are going to talk about someone challenging Jack's record, there's your man," Ireland's Padraig Harrington said, mentioning Jack Nicklaus' record of 18 major titles. "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."
McIlroy wasn't in a celebratory mood after his 68 on Saturday.
"Paddy, Paddy, Paddy," he said. "I'm still looking for my first one. I've put myself in a great position to do that tomorrow, and then we'll see what happens from there. It's nice to have all these complimentary things said about you, but until you actually do these things, they don't mean anything."