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English prosper at Merion as Mickelson clings to lead

Alex Dimond at Merion June 15, 2013 « Live County Championship coverage | Chartbeat test »
Phil Mickelson needed a big putt at the last to reclaim his share of the lead © AP
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ESPN will have all the news, views and features from the US Open this week - along with an in-depth GolfCast from all four rounds

Justin Rose and Ian Poulter climbed the leaderboard late on Friday evening at Merion, joining Luke Donald at the forefront of proceedings and giving the US Open a very English feel.

US Open, Friday Leaderboard

  • -1        Phil Mickelson
                Billy Horschel 
  • E        Luke Donald
               Steve Stricker
               Justin Rose
               Ian Poulter*
               Pan Cheng-Tsung (a)*
  • * Denotes second round not finished.

American Billy Horschel, at one-under par overall, shares the tournament lead heading into Saturday - deserved reward for a second round 67, comfortably the best of those who completed their day's work - but the three Englishmen are queuing up to challenge him, with Donald the first in the clubhouse at level-par before Rose joined him hours later.

Rose was on the 18th when the horn sounded to end play for the day due to darkness, making a crucial up-and-down to save par and shoot 69.

"That lie-in in the morning is going to feel good," Rose said. "It's fantastic. That's the job in the first two rounds - to try and get yourself in striking distance."

Poulter, meanwhile, will return on Saturday morning to complete his second round, but currently also sits level-par - albeit with four of Merion's testing closing holes still to complete.

First round leader Phil Mickelson was unable to replicate his sleep-deprived magic on his return to the course, missing a series of makable putts for pars and birdies before rolling in a vital one at the 18th - ensuring he joined Horschel at one-under overall after a 72.

That enabled him to lead playing partner Steve Stricker - who shot 69 on the day - and amateur sensation Pan Cheng-Tsung by a single stroke, although the Taiwanese still has nine holes to complete before he can think about a late third round tee-time.

"I fought hard and stayed in there," Mickelson said afterwards. "I got shut out today. I played really well. Even though I shot two‑over, it was the birdie opportunities that I didn't capitalise on.

"Had I made one on two of those birdies on eight, or nine, or 11, I would have changed the momentum of the round. I played well today, even though I didn't feel the score was what I thought it should be."

A gaggle of top players are within striking distance on the leaderboard, on a day where Merion's East Course resolutely refused to give away easy shots. Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods both professed themselves delighted with level-par rounds of 70 that left them three-over, firmly in the hunt heading into what is often known as "Moving Day".

Depending on how the course is set up on Saturday, however, all the moving might be in just one direction.

Between the world's two best players and the leader are a number of familiar names. John Senden and Nicolas Colsaerts are both in the clubhouse at one-over, with Charl Schwartzel and Hunter Mahan two-over with just a handful of holes still to complete.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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Alex Dimond is an assistant editor of ESPN.co.uk