5 things: Prelude to the McIlroy show

Russell Henley

Russell Henley

BETHESDA, Md. – All eyes will be on Rory McIlroy on Saturday at Congressional Country Club. Here’s what to look for before The Rory Show starts at 3:50 p.m.:

1.) Catch him if they can: McIlroy has a six-shot lead, tying Tiger Woods (2000) for the largest 36-hole lead in U.S. Open history. McIlroy is a half-dozen shots ahead of Y.E. Yang, the 2009 PGA champion, after shooting 65-66. More importantly, Yang is the only player within nine shots of McIlroy’s lead.

“It’s been two very, very good days of golf,” McIlroy said. “I put myself in a great position going into the weekend. But I know probably more than anyone else what can happen. So I’ve got to stay really focused and try and finish this thing off.”

2.) Hot pursuit: Yang is McIlroy’s closest pursuer. He should feel comfortable in his position, a half-dozen off the lead with two rounds remaining. Yang won the 2009 PGA after sitting six shots back of Woods at the halfway mark.

“I think at this point it’s a little bit irrelevant,” Yang said of McIlroy’s lead.

Yang also won last year’s Korean Open after trailing Seung-Yul Noh by 10 shots after 54 holes.

3.) Tip for spectators: McIlroy may have made the rest of the field irrelevant, but there’s still plenty of interesting pairings Saturday. Here’s some to keep an eye on:

• 10:30 a.m.: Luke Donald-Anthony Kim. Donald, the world’s No. 1 player, and Kim, who won the AT&T National at Congressional, find themselves out of contention.

• 11:10 a.m.: Matteo Manassero-Dustin Johnson. Call this group “the long and short of it.”

• 12:40 p.m.: Martin Kaymer-Graeme McDowell: Two of 2010’s major champions have work to do if they want to contend for another one.

12:50 p.m.: Ryo Ishikawa-Padraig Harrington: It’s a pairing of a flashy youngster (Ishikawa) and grinding veteran (Harrington).

•1:40 p.m.: Kevin Chappell-Phil Mickelson: The two Californians will tee off more than two hours ahead of the final group. Chappell shot 67 Friday to make the cut.

• 2:10 p.m.: Louis Oosthuizen-Russell Henley: Last year’s British Open champion gets to play with last year’s U.S. Open low amateur.

• 3:50 p.m.: Rory McIlroy-Y.E. Yang: Can anyone catch McIlroy? We’ll find out when this group goes off.

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4.) Leaderboard glance: Five players are tied for third at 2 under – Matt Kuchar, Zach Johnson, Brandt Snedeker, Sergio Garcia and Robert Garrigus. Here’s where some of golf’s bigger names stand through 36 holes:

T-8. Davis Love III, 70-71

T-15. Louis Oosthuizen, 69-73

T-15. Charl Schwartzel, 68-74

T-25. Lee Westwood, 75-68

T-25. Phil Mickelson, 74-69

T-33. Martin Kaymer, 74-70

T-33. Graeme McDowell, 70-74

T-33. Ryo Ishikawa, 74-70

T-56. Anthony Kim, 74-72

T-56. Matteo Manassero, 74-72

T-56. Bubba Watson, 71-75

Mickelson was under par for the tournament until a double bogey on his final hole. “It was a disappointing finish with that double, but I’m still struggling, even though I was able to shoot under par today,” Mickelson said.

5.) Amateur hour: Russell Henley and Patrick Cantlay aren’t just tied for low-amateur honors, but are in position for a high finish. Henley and Cantlay will start the third round tied for 15th at even-par 142. Cantlay, the 2011 Jack Nicklaus Award winner as college golf’s player of the year, shot 67 Friday, including 30 on Congressional’s difficult back nine. Henley tied for 16th at last year’s Open at Pebble Beach to share low amateur honors.

Brad Benjamin, the 2009 U.S. Amateur Public Links champion, also made the the cut with rounds of 72-73. He’s three shots back of Cantlay and Henley.

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