Not that he seemed to mind much. For awhile, at least, the kid could say he was in a toe-to-toe battle with Mickelson and Luke Donald.

“I kept looking at the leaderboard,” he said. “It was so cool to see my name next to those names.”

Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy fade away | 4:15 p.m.

With Phil Mickelson looking more and more like the man to beat at this year’s U.S. Open, two other big names have played their way out of contention in the third round at Merion Golf Club.

Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy birdied the first hole on Saturday … and tumbled straight downhill from there.

Woods missed too many putts, bogeying Nos. 3, 5, 6, 10, 12, 16 and 18 on his way to a forgettable round, finishing miles off the pace at nine over. McIlroy matched him error for error with a score only slightly better at eight over.

It was Woods’ highest total after 54 holes at a U.S. Open.

While the world’s two highest-ranked players faded away, there were plenty of marquee golfers ready to fill the void at the top of the leaderboard.

Luke Donald, Charl Schwartzel and Hunter Mahan shared a slim lead at two under. Mickelson and Justin Rose followed one stroke back. Steve Stricker was at even par.

Mickelson threatened to move into a tie for first on the uphill No. 14 hole, hitting a classic Lefty wedge directly on line.

At any other course, the ball might have hit the flagstick and dropped in.  But Merion has steel pins -- needed to hold up those funny wicker baskets on top iinstead of a flag -- so the shot clanged away, leaving a short par putt.

Luke Donald, Charl Schwartzel share lead | 3:23 p.m.

A fist pump. A big smile and a tip of the cap.

Phil Mickelson had the looks of a man on the move after scoring his second birdie in a row, moving into a tie for second place at the U.S. Open late Saturday afternoon.

At one under par, Mickelson stood just a stroke behind co-leaders Luke Donald and Charl Schwartzel.

His mini-charge began at the start of the back nine, considered the easiest stretch at Merion Golf Club, “easiest” being a relative term at this year’s grueling test of golf's best players.

At No. 10, he hit an uncharacteristically conservative tee shot, a smart play that left him in position to score. Then came another makeable birdie putt on No. 11.

Hunter Mahan enjoyed similar success after the turn with three birdies in a four-hole stretch that left him standing alongside Mickelson at one under. Eight more golfers followed within three strokes of the lead, a tightly packed bunch that included Justin Rose, Ian Poulter and an unexpected name.

Even with a bogey at No. 16, 19-year-old Michael Kim remained stubbornly in contention at one over.

The amateur started Saturday’s third round with a bogey on the third hole at Merion, but bounced back with a string of four birdies in five holes on the back nine. Not bad for a young man who finished the second round with modest goals.