McDowell back in front

6/20/2010 11:44:14 PM
Graeme McDowell  (Getty Images)
Graeme McDowell (Getty Images)
Graeme McDowell was back on top of the leaderboard as Dustin Johnson let his three shot lead slip to blow the final round of the 110th US Open Championship wide open at Pebble Beach.

American Johnson, 25, did not last long with the pressure of a Sunday lead at the Majors, leaving Northern Ireland's Graeme McDowell and Ernie Els of South Africa tied for the lead at three under on the front nine as the day took a dramatic early turn.

Johnson had gone into the final round with a seemingly unflappable demeanour as he sought to protect his lead at six under par and win his first Major.

Rejoining battle with halfway leader McDowell for the second day in a row, having outscored him by five shots in the third round, Johnson walked off the par four second hole in a tie for the lead at three under after a triple bogey seven and then lost his ball off the third tee in a nightmare series of events for the World Number 29.

Johnson had found the top of a greenside bunker with his second shot on a hole that is normally designated a par five.

He played left-handed from there and fluffed that third shot, then needed two more to get out of greenside rough before two-putting as Northern Ireland's McDowell parred his first two holes.

There was further trouble for Johnson when he strayed off the next tee, losing his ball in thick rough to the left of the third fairway on the par four hole and having to return to the tee box after using up his allocated five minutes to find it on the way to a double bogey.

Having been made to wait, McDowell, the leading putter in the tournament so far, had done well to sink a far from easy par putt and the 30 year old from Portrush went to the fourth having regained the lead at three under as Johnson slipped to one under.

Johnson was all at sea, figuratively and literally at the fourth as his tee shot rolled over the edge of the cliff and after taking a drop he missed his par putt from five feet to fall further behind.

Tiger Woods had launched his bid for a 15th Major from five strokes back off the lead having shot a five under par 66 on Saturday to reach one under par.

The World Number One, who won the 2000 US Open Championship on its last visit to Pebble Beach by a Majors record 15 strokes, was not in the same scintillating form he had been the previous night, though.

He bogeyed the first after missing a short putt, scrambled a saved par at the third thanks to an excellent second shot from thick rough in a wooded hollow beneath the fairway and then bogeyed the fourth before emulating Johnson and going over the cliffs, this time at six.

Woods' playing partner, however, Frenchman Gregory Havret, began with a birdie to move to one under, as did two-time champion Els of South Africa and World Number Two and Masters Tournament champion Phil Mickelson, who reached level par.

Mickelson three-putted the fourth having driven the green to return to level par but Els powered on to join McDowell in the lead at three under thanks to birdies at the fourth and sixth.

There were some other early fireworks as first round co-leader Shaun Micheel albatrossed the par five sixth hole after holing out with a three iron from 239 yards.