UNIVERSITY PLACE, WASH. – Rory McIlroy sounded like a dreamer caught in that hazy state between warm sleep and cold reality.
"I'll need something spectacular tomorrow," McIlroy admitted Saturday. "If I can hit the ball like I did today and have one of my best-ever putting rounds, I still have a chance."
So it has come to this for McIlroy heading into the final day of the U.S. Open. He is 4 over and in need of a miracle to get back in contention.
McIlroy's body language said it all. He sank a roughly 15-foot comeback putt for par to complete a third-round 70 Saturday at Chambers Bay, and he raised both arms in mock celebration as if he were about to lift the U.S. Open trophy for the second time.
His even-par round did move him forward but not enough to feel he's anything but a long shot Sunday.
"It took a while to hole one," McIlroy said of his celebration at the 18th hole. "I missed seven makable puts on the back nine. It was nice to see one drop at the last. I feel like I turned a 65 into a 70 today. Just real disappointed."
He is not alone, nor in bad company this tournament.
Phil Mickelson's long-shot chance splintered Saturday when he shot 7 over and dropped to 10 over for the tournament. Mickelson was looking to complete the modern Grand Slam after finishing second at the U.S. Open six times before.
Chambers Bay has chewed up many of the game's most recognizable names, serving as a reminder that even some of the world's top players can be humbled. Many golfers have complained about the spotty conditions of the greens this week, including McIlroy, but they've also admitted one other notable point: Everyone is playing on the same surfaces.
There have been the expected moments of brilliance — but more moments where those same players look, in the broadest sense, like Joe Golfer at his home course on a Saturday.
McIlroy said he missed seven makable putts on the back nine alone Saturday. He needed 31 putts Saturday, just below the field average.
Adding to that frustration is that McIlroy was otherwise pleased with his round. He was above average at hitting fairways and greens and said he hit the ball as well as he can.
"It's just hard to stay patient whenever I'm not holing anything," he said
What he's had to accept is that he just hasn't been able to get it done at Chambers Bay.
Mickelson had little to say after his round Saturday, other than this: "As bad as my score was, I hit a lot of good shots that ended up as bogeys. And through three rounds, I haven't made a [double bogey]."