The pressure will be on Sunday for Justin Rose to continue one of the quirkier runs in sports. If there is a top-level professional golf tournament contested around Philadelphia, maybe Justin Rose is just supposed to win it.
Apparently, there also is supposed to be a little rain.
Rose rode a front-nine 29 Saturday at the Aronimink Golf Club in Newtown Square for the third-round lead of the BMW Championship.
It might not be destiny for Rose as much as his exquisite iron play. Rose acknowledged the good vibes from the crowd who remember the last time the pros were around here, the 2013 U.S. Open at Merion, won by Rose for his only major title. He also won the 2010 AT&T National here at Aronimink, the streak marred only by a still-solid 15th-place finish in 2011 at Aronimink.
Mr. Philadelphia, now a Merion member himself, scorched the front nine Saturday, but a stream of back-nine pars, 9-for-9, put Rose at 64 for the day and 17-under 193 for 54-holes. All those pars brought more of the field back into contention, with five players within three shots, after Rose and second-round leader Xander Schauffele had opened up a little gap.
An even-par back nine by Schauffele put the second-round leader a stroke back. Making a strong bid for the final remaining Ryder Cup spot, Schauffele was tied with Rory McIlroy at 16 under.
McIlroy probably hasn't had too many 63s in his career that included a double bogey. That was Saturday's tale, but his double was followed by an immediate eagle that got McIlroy roaring again, with seven birdies also on his card.
After his opening-round 62, McIlroy had predicted the winning score here would be 15 to 20 under. He might have to revise that a bit with more birdies in the forecast.
That's not, however, the biggest issue in the forecast. The tour's weather expert drew a bigger press crowd than many of the leaders. Organizers already have moved tee times up for Sunday, with everyone going off from 7 to 8:50 a.m., threesomes leaving from the first and 10th tees, if the weather cooperates.
Meteorologist Joe Halvorson was asked what the best-case rain forecast is for Sunday.
"The heaviest rainfalls, intensity that is, holds off until noon, 1 o'clock,'' Halvorson said.
Worst case? You don't want to know. Moderate to heavy rain early, then increasing.
What about Monday?
"I do see a clear window potentially from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.,'' Halvorson said.
This is all so sketchy that Halvorson was even asked about Tuesday's rain outlook, which includes scattered and lighter rains.
Wednesday looks good?
"Wednesday looks pretty good,'' he said.
Figuring out how this plays out was the topic of the day. A caddie walking off the first tee was briefing his golfer. About the hole? The weather forecast, for the day and into the night. Rose said he went over things with his caddie, not ignoring the possibility that the third round could turn out to be final round.
With the overnight rains soaking the course and delaying Saturday's morning play, the greens were most welcoming by the time play began at noon. Picture a NASCAR race under a yellow flag, every driver lined up tightly for when the green flag came out. The flag went down and they start making birdies.
Tiger Woods had half of Delaware County following him around as he birdied the first two holes, pulling him up to a tie for third before the final groups teed off. However, 11 straight pars dropped Woods out of the top 10. He finished the round tied for 11th after two late birdies gave him a 66.
Low rounds here are par for the course this year. Saturday, Tommy Fleetwood shot his second straight 62, after a first-round 71, getting him to 15-under, two back, tied with Rickie Fowler, who had a last-hole bogey after six birdies on the day.
The special hole for Rose may have produced a par. At the par-3 17th, he missed the green and landed in deep rough above a bunker. The ball was above knee-high as Rose stood in the sand trap. He choked up on a 52-degree wedge, improvising the whole thing, he said, since it's not exactly a shot you practice. His pitch ended up inside three feet, and he made the putt. The good local vibes continue.