(CNN) -- They've mirrored each other at Merion. And now it looks like both Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy won't be in contention on the final day of the U.S. Open.
Woods shot a six-over-par 76 Saturday on Merion's unforgiving East Course and McIlroy, second only to Woods in the world rankings, carded a 75.
They were paired together for the third straight day, hitting identical 73s in first round and 70s in the second.
While the top-ranked duo were only four shots behind co-leaders Phil Mickelson and Billy Horschel through two rounds, McIlroy had slipped a further two shots behind the clubhouse leader, Australia's Jason Day, and Woods was seven shots behind Day.
It got worse after Mickelson, a five-time U.S. Open runner-up, completed his round and took a one-stroke overall advantage. McIlroy drifted to nine shots behind and Woods 10.
It means Woods' wait to end his five-year drought at majors appears set to continue.
Woods, bothered by a left arm injury he sustained en route to winning The Players Championship last month, raised hopes among his fans when he struck a birdie on the first hole.
Woods, though, wouldn't hit another birdie for the rest of the round. Instead he registered seven bogeys.
McIlroy, in search of a third major, wasn't much better, hitting one more birdie than Woods.
The low scores at Merion have failed to materialize, and Sergio Garcia needed 10 shots to complete the par-4 15th hole. Despite the disastrous hole, he still managed to match McIlroy and shoot a 75 which left him tied for 44th with defending champion Webb Simpson.
Garcia said he was heckled in the first round and a fan blurted out, "fried chicken" before he teed off at his first hole Saturday. It was a reference to the "fried chicken" jibe Garcia directed at Woods last month.
Garcia issued a public apology and left Woods a note this week leading into the tournament.
Day, the 2011 runner-up, ended the third round in eighth place after a two-under-par 68.
He was overtaken by the late groupings as Mickelson carded 70 to be one-under 209 after 54 holes.
Mickelson finished birdie-bogey, having dropped shots at 3 and 5 before recovering them at 10-11.
"I've had opportunities in years past, and it has been so fun, even though it's been heart-breaking to come so close a number of times and let it slide," said the four-time major winner, who turns 43 on Sunday.
"But I feel better equipped than I have ever felt heading into the final round of a U.S. Open. My ball striking is better than it's ever been. My putting is better than it has been in years, and I feel very comfortable on this golf course. I love it."
His fellow veteran Stricker matched that 70 to be tied for second alongside Ryder Cup teammate Hunter Mahan and South Africa's 2011 Masters winner Charl Schwartzel, who both shot 69.
Former world No. 1 Luke Donald had been in the lead but the Englishman dropped a shot at 17 and double-bogeyed the final hole to fall back to 211 alongside compatriot Justin Rose -- who matched his 71 -- and Horschel.
Horschel, playing his first major as a pro having missed the cut as an amateur back in 2006, played the difficult closing holes in par to sign for a 72.
American Rickie Fowler carded the best round of the day, a four-birdie 67 which moved him up to ninth -- one shot ahead of leading amateur Michael Kim.
Kim, born in South Korea but raised in San Diego, had been in a tie for third after firing four birdies in six holes but a horrendous finish -- bogey, double bogey, bogey -- meant he ended with a 71, five shots behind Mickelson.
He is seeking to become the first amateur to finish in the top 10 since 1971, and the first to win the U.S. Open since 1933.