Tacoma - The world's top golfer Rory McIlroy set off in the third round of the US Open on Saturday desperately needing a round in the mid sixties to revive his flagging fortunes.
He started well with a par at the first followed by a birdie at the second.
The four-time major winner has cut a frustrated figure over the first two days at the controversial Chambers Bay golf course south of Seattle, firing back-to-back 72s to stand at four over.
That only just creeped him inside the cut for the weekend, but the 26-year-old Northern Irishman was a whopping nine strokes off joint halfway leaders Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed.
Sign of the times, the two Texans are both younger than McIlroy, for long the boy wonder of world golf, who is now a clear and distant world number one following his wins last year in the British Open and PGA Championship.
The 21-year-old Spieth in particular is seen as a threat to McIlroy's hegemony of world golf.
A win on Sunday would make him the first player since Tiger Woods in 2002 to win the Masters and the US Open in the same year, taking him halfway to the calendar-year Grand Slam.
Spieth played one of the best rounds of the day on Friday, his morning 67 nudging him up the leaderboard as the afternoon wave of golfers struggled with the fiery conditions and came back to him.
A further stroke back from Reed and Spieth were joint first round leader Dustin Johnson of the United States, who had a 71, and South African Branden Grace with a 67.
Grouped on 137 were Joost Luiten of the Netherlands (69) and American trio Tony Finau (68), Daniel Summerhays (67) and Ben Martin (70).
With 20 players ranged with five shots of the lead, the way was open for someone to fire a low round and take the lead going into Sunday's final round.
Americans dominated the top of the leaderboard with eight of their number in the top 11, including some lesser known names such as Jamie Lovemark, Summerhays and Tony Finau, all of whom coped better with the links-style layout south of Seattle than many of the bigger names in the game.
Phil Mickelson, seeking a US Open win at the age of 45 after six runner-up finishes, like McIlroy needed a big day to get back into contention from his three over position.
But at least he was still in the hunt with notable absentees at the weekend including Tiger Woods, Bubba Watson, Rickie Fowler and defending champion Martin Kaymer.
There was attention too on Australian Jason Day, who collapsed with a bout of vertigo while playing the last hole of his second round and who needed treatment afterwards.
Day is at three under and due out early afternoon in the company of Kevin Kisner. All the signs are that he will tee off.