World number one Jason Day continued his bid to stage a remarkable comeback when the delayed third round of the US Open got under way at Oakmont on Saturday.
Day’s chances of winning a second major title looked slim when he carded an opening 76 to lie 10 shots off the lead, while a second round of 69 only reduced his deficit to Dustin Johnson by a single shot.
However, the 28-year-old Australian had clearly not given up hope of adding to the US PGA title he won in record-breaking fashion last year and birdied four of his first five holes to jump into the top 15.
Day birdied the 10th, 12th, 13th and 14th to improve to one over par and trail Johnson by five as the American made his way down the first hole in pursuit of a first major title, the world number six having three-putted the 72nd hole at Chambers Bay last year to finish a shot behind Jordan Spieth.
Spieth had also not abandoned his quest to become the first player since Curtis Strange in 1989 to win back-to-back titles, the 22-year-old carding a hat-trick of birdies from the 11th before a bogey on the 14th dropped him back to two over.
Earlier in the day Rory McIlroy had veered from the sublime to the ridiculous to miss his first cut in a major championship since the 2013 Open at Muirfield and end a run of nine straight top-25 finishes in the game’s biggest events.
McIlroy had completed his weather-delayed first round on Friday with bogeys on his last three holes to finish seven over par, equalling his worst score in the event which provided his first major victory in 2011.
The only good news for the 27-year-old was that Thursday’s early starters were then told they would not start their second rounds until Saturday morning, after initially being given a start time of 8:54pm on Friday evening - two minutes after sunset.
The combination of a session on the range with coach Michael Bannon and a more aggressive approach then paid off for McIlroy on day three as he birdied the 10th, 12th, 14th and 16th and then drove the green on the short par-four 17th, only to three-putt for par from 80 feet.
Further birdie chances went begging on the first and second before McIlroy’s round imploded on the third, the world number three four-putting from around 10 feet to run up a double-bogey six.
Another bogey on the sixth left McIlroy on the cut line of six over par and his chances of making the weekend disappeared when he failed to get out of a fairway bunker on the ninth at the first attempt.