Majestic McDowell leads with Furyk

6/17/2012 3:19:23 AM
Graeme McDowell  (Getty Images)
Graeme McDowell (Getty Images)

Northern Irishman Graeme McDowell and American Jim Furyk are the only players under par going into the final round of the US Open Championship after a captivating day at The Olympic Club.

McDowell, winner of the title at Pebble Beach in 2010, signed for a two under par 68 to be one under for the tournament, the same score as Furyk, who won the event in 2003.

McDowell is not the only member of The European Tour in contention to win the second Major of the year.

Sweden’s Fredrik Jacobson also carded a 68 to lie third on one over, while World Number Three Lee Westwood, two-time winner Ernie Els and Belgian Nicolas Colsaerts are all in the group on two over. 

England’s Westwood produced a sensational 67, curling home a 40 footer at the last, while Els chipped in for eagle at the 17th. 

But they will all have to try and catch Furyk and 32 year old McDowell, who birdied the final hole for a superb 68 over the treacherous Olympic Club layout in San Francisco. 

As for Tiger Woods, joint leader at halfway with Furyk and David Toms, he could not maintain his impressive form of the opening 36 holes and with a five over par 75 dropped into a tie for 14th. Only Toms, with a 76, scored worse in the top 60 players.  

Westwood’s 67 matched the low score of the round and lifted the 39 year old all way from 29th into a tie for fourth in his 57th attempt to land a Major. 

McDowell, trying to make it a third Northern Irish win in a row following his own success and Rory McIlroy's runaway victory at Congressional Country Club in Washington last year, followed eight opening pars with a bogey on the 449 yard ninth hole. 

But the back nine is where most of the birdie chances tend to come, and he holed putts of four feet on the tenth, ten feet at the short 13th and then another four footer on the last. 

McDowell said: "The ninth was a wake-up call. I realised my swing was getting quick and snatchy. 

"Then the save on the 12th was huge. I thought I was in the bushes over the green, but making four spurred me on. 

"I am firing pretty much on all cylinders.The key is not looking at leaderboards. It's not just me and Jim - there are a lot of guys who can win.

“I look at the leaderboard now, and I see Tiger’s name, but I see other great names there as well, such as Lee Westwood and David Toms – guys who know how to get the job done. It’s fairly crowded, but I think four over is about as far back as you can look.  

“I think someone will go and shoot 69 or 70 tomorrow and get the job done. I think level has a great shot, I really do. Last night I was thinking three or four over par had a shot, but the golf course was more playable today and the scoring was quite good. Now I’m thinking, would I take level par and sit in the clubhouse tomorrow? Maybe I would, but we’ll go and give it a go and see what tomorrow brings.” 

Furyk shot a rollercoaster 70. He bogeyed the first and fifth holes, birdied the seventh and 11th, took six on the 670 yard 16th, then two-putted the 522 yard 17th for his third birdie of the day. 

Alongside 1994 and 1997 champion Els, Westwood and Colsaerts is American Blake Adams. 

Like Westwood, Colsaerts started the week with a double bogey and the 29 year old was four over after three holes. 

However, he recovered for a 72, and a 69 thrust The European Tour’s longest-hitter into contention. 

A birdie from eight feet at the 11th briefly gave the Volvo World Match Play champion a share of the lead, but after 14 holes without dropping a shot he three-putted the short 15th and found sand at the monster 16th. 

“I feel I played unbelievably well the first 12, 14 holes,” he said. “The plan was obviously to start well, and I gave myself a few very good birdie chances. I wasn't quite efficient enough on the greens - if I could have putted a little better, maybe I would have probably been easily under par. But hopefully I can have a better day on the greens tomorrow.”