Graeme McDowell, Jim Furyk lead
SAN FRANCISCO -- If Tiger Woods is to win his 15th major championship on Sunday, he will have to do something he hasn't done in the previous 14 -- come from behind.
Woods had his worst round as a 36-hole leader in a major, shooting a 5-over-par 75 on Saturday at The Olympic Club, leaving him five strokes behind leaders Graeme McDowell and Jim Furyk at the 112th U.S. Open.
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Ranked No. 4 in the world, Woods dropped from a share of the lead to start the day into a tie for 14th.
McDowell, who shot a 68 to finish at 1-under 209, won the 2010 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach and would give Northern Ireland three consecutive victories in the championship. His countryman, Rory McIlroy, won the title last year.
Furyk shot an even-par 70 and also is striving for his second U.S. Open title. He won the tournament in 2003.
The course yielded 13 sub-par scores, matching the total for the first two rounds. Four of the top seven players on the leaderboard were under par in the third round.
And yet despite the seemingly tamer conditions, Woods shot his worst score of the week. After managing his game beautifully during the first two rounds, Woods struggled Saturday, making three bogeys among the first six holes and managing just one birdie.
"I didn't really have very many birdie putts," Woods said. "I was lag putting or having big-breaking putts. I didn't have very many good looks, and the ones you do get you have to bury those. It's frustrating."
Woods said he didn't feel his game was that far off, but for the first time when holding at least a share of the 36-hole lead at a major, he failed to at least match par. And in all 14 of his major championship victories, Woods never was worse than par in the third round.
"I don't think he looked that far off," Furyk said. "It's just stuff happens at the U.S. Open sometimes."
Woods will have that to overcome if he is to notch his first major title since winning the U.S. Open at Torrey Pines in 2008.
"I'm just going to have to shoot a good round (Sunday), post a number and see what happens," Woods said. "There's a bunch of guys with a chance, but it all depends on what they do with the golf course."
Woods began the day tied with Furyk and David Toms (third-round 76) at 1 under, but he quickly gave away that stroke with a bogey at the first hole when he missed the fairway and couldn't reach the green with his second shot. He also bogeyed Nos. 3 and 6, playing the vaunted six-hole opening stretch in 3 over. He had played those holes in even par during the first two rounds.
Woods' only birdie didn't come until the ninth hole. He failed to birdie the par-5 17th and then hit a poor chip shot on the par-4 18th, leading to a bogey.
Furyk, playing in the final twosome, beat Woods by five strokes.
McDowell might have been the steadiest of all the players on the leaderboard, with two birdies and just one bogey Saturday. He had a birdie at the 18th and will be in the final twosome, where he was two years ago a couple hours down the road from Olympic at Pebble Beach.
"It doesn't feel much different than two years ago," said McDowell, the European Ryder Cup hero in 2010. "I guess I know what to expect now. That's probably the only difference. Emotionally, I went through the same experience today like I did two years ago. I was anxious and I was nervous. Two years ago, the Saturday was a tough day for me. And Sunday kind of felt a bit more normal, like Saturday would be my practice round, if you like.
"And, hopefully, tomorrow I'll know what to expect for the day. Try to go in with the attitude that if I keep playing and preparing the way I'm preparing, for the biggest events in the world I will have more opportunities."
Furyk, who was paired with McDowell during the first two rounds here, played the last 13 holes Saturday in 2 under. A 16-time winner on the PGA Tour, his lone major title came nine years ago.
Major hurdle for Tiger
Tiger Woods never has come from behind after 54 holes to win a major -- something he'll have to do Sunday to win the 112th U.S. Open at Olympic. Here's a look at his best finishes at majors when trailing after three rounds.
|Finish||Shots off lead|
|2005 U.S. Open||2nd||6|
|2002 PGA Champ.||2nd||5|
|2007 U.S. Open||T-2nd||2|
But he's been one of the top American players for a decade and a half, having played on every Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup team dating to 1997. At age 42, he'd become the first player to win the U.S. Open in his 40s since Payne Stewart in 1999.
"Graeme and I are tied for the lead, but there's a bunch of people piled up and close to it," Furyk said. "Obviously, I like being up front in the position I'm in. The golf course will take its effect on a bunch of people. And the guys that go out there and deal with the conditions and the situations the best and find a way to get through those difficult holes with par and limit their bogeys and take advantage of some situations where you can make birdie, those are the guys that are to have some success and have an opportunity to win the last few holes.
"I probably won't try to look at the leaderboard too much. I'll get a feel for how things are going score-wise, but it will be more about trying to play the golf course tomorrow rather than trying to play Graeme or trying to play the guys trying to hunt us down."
Meanwhile, several other players moved into contention with solid third rounds.
Two-time U.S. Open champion Els holed a pitch shot for eagle at the 17th to help him shoot 68 and move to 2 over.
"It's one of those one-in-a-thousand shots," Els said of the eagle.
It put him in the mix, an impressive feat considering Els was 7 over for the tournament through five holes. But he made three birdies and an eagle over his final 12 holes Saturday.
"I feel that my mental attitude this week has been quite good," said Els, who won the U.S. Open at Oakmont in 1994 and at Congressional in '97.
If he was to win, the 14-year gap between victories would be the longest in Open history, surpassing the 11-year span for both Julius Boros and Hale Irwin.
"I've had a couple of train wrecks out there. The 16th (on Thursday) I made 8, and I made double on (No.) 4 the first day. So, hopefully, I got those out of the way."
U.S. Open Leaderboard
T-1. McDowell (-1)
T-1. Furyk (-1)
3. Jacobson (+1)
T-4. Westwood (+2)
T-4. Adams (+2)
T-4. Colsaerts (+2)
T-4. Els (+2)
• Complete scores
Westwood, ranked third in the world, rallied with a 67 that jumped him from a tie for 29th to start the day into a tie for fourth. Since the Masters began in 1934, Westwood's seven top-three finishes are the most of any player without a major title.
"I think I've probably been in contention in major championships more than anybody else over the last three or four years," Westwood said. "So I'm looking forward to tomorrow and hopefully going to go out and have some fun and see what happens."
Woods still had a chance to make his task of coming from behind easier over the closing three holes.
But at the par-5 16th, which played 671 yards on Saturday, Woods sprayed his tee shot into the trees and was left with 246 yards for his third shot. He found a bunker and couldn't get it up and down, falling back with another bogey.
At the 17th, his approach from the fairway came up short in a bunker, and he was unable to get it up and down. Then at the 18th, Woods' approach kicked off the green into a terrible lie. He stubbed the chip shot and made another bogey.
"I wasn't very off," Woods said. "But on a golf course like this, it can do that to you."
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2012 U.S. OPEN
2012 course: The Olympic Club
Yardage, par: 7,170 yards, par-70
2012 champion: Webb Simpson
Past champions: Complete list
Olympic Club hole flyovers: Front 9 | Back 9
Topics: The U.S. Open