Tempting Mother Nature again at the Open

BETHESDA, Md. – Threatening skies once again will greet the final pairings Sunday in the U.S. Open, and the tee times again will leave little margin for error on getting finished before darkness if there is a stoppage due to lightning.

In Saturday’s third round, the final pairing of Rory McIlroy and Y.E. Yang made their way around Congressional in slightly over four hours, right on the target time set by the U.S. Golf Association, and finished at 7:54 p.m., less than 45 minutes before sunset.

So the USGA and NBC are banking that play will continue smoothly without any stoppages, so McIlroy and Yang will tee off in the last group at 3:20 p.m. NBC’s coverage is scheduled to end at 7:30 p.m.

The forecast calls for breaks of sunshine in the early afternoon before a large area of showers and thunderstorms heads to the Bethesda region. The area is expected to weaken and dip to the south but a few showers and storms may hit close to the course in the mid to late afternoon.

McIlroy enters play with an eight-stroke lead, double what he had two months ago at the Masters going into the final round. He wound up losing the Masters after collapsing on the back nine

On Saturday, he established records for most strokes under par in an Open (14) and lowest 54-hole score (199). He will try to beat Tiger Woods’ record for lowest total score – 12-under 272 set in 2000 at Pebble Beach – in Sunday’s final round.

He enters the final 18 ranked first among the field in greens in regulation (46) and birdies (15). He has one bogey and one double bogey in 54 holes and did not have a three-putt in his first three rounds.

He is averaging 313 yards off the tee (sixth) and has hit 28 fairways (tied for 22nd).

--Joe Juliano