McDowell, Furyk Share 54-Hole Lead At 2012 U.S. Open
By Thomas Bonk
San Francisco – Jim Furyk won his U.S. Open in 2003 with a quirky swing. Graeme McDowell won his U.S. Open in 2010 with a more textbook version.
Their victories might be separated by seven years, but they will showcase both their differences and similarities on Sunday at The Olympic Club when they take a share of the 54-hole lead into the final round of the 2012 U.S. Open.
McDowell won two years ago at Pebble Beach Golf Links, only a couple of hours’ drive from here. He has shown his fondness for Northern California this week with his second sub-70 round, a 2-under 68 that caught Furyk, who rolled in a clutch birdie putt at the 17th hole to underscore a steady round of even-par 70 that left them tied at 1-under 209.
“I’ve got great support out here,” said McDowell. “There may be more Irishmen out here than there are in Ireland.
“What is it about Northern California? I don’t know. There’s something about this kind of sea air coming off the Pacific [Ocean] that feels a little bit like home to me. If this continues, if this good play in Northern California continues, I may have to be getting a little real estate out here or something.”
McDowell and Furyk lead Sweden’s Fredrik Jacobson (68–211) by two strokes, with stalwarts Ernie Els, a two-time U.S. Open champion, and Lee Westwood lurking three strokes back at 2-over 212.
Tiger Woods, who began the day with a share of the 36-hole lead with Furyk and David Toms, struggled to a 75 and sits five strokes back. Toms had a 76.
Furyk, meanwhile, got off to his own rough start. He was two over through five holes, but figured it wasn’t time to panic.
“There are some places you are going to struggle,” said Furyk, a U.S. Open runner-up in 2006 and 2007. “You have to bide your time, you have to be patient and wait for the chances and try not to force it.
“On a golf course like this, you have to go from spot to spot, it doesn’t have to look or be fancy.”
Furyk and McDowell are being hard pressed by five others within three shots. Jacobson is the closest after his 68 that left him alone in third at one-over 211.
Els, who eagled the 17th on his way to a 68, and Westwood, who shared the day’s low round with a 67, are part of a four-player jam that also includes American qualifier Blake Adams and Belgium’s Nicolas Cosaerts.
But the biggest surprise on Saturday likely came from Woods, who missed seven fairways after missing that same total over the first 36 holes.
His troubles began with a bogey-5 at the first, and he needed a birdie on No. 9 for an outward-nine 37. His final nine holes included bogeys at the par-5 16th and par-4 18th holes. On 16, his drive found the trees to the right of the fairway and he missed a long par putt.
“I was just missing [fairways] by a few yards and that was enough,” said Woods, who did not count himself out of the running.
“I’m definitely still in the ball game. I’m only five back and that’s certainly doable on this golf course for sure.”
McDowell said anyone within four shots has a chance, so it’s a crowded field.
“Graeme and I are tied for the lead, but there’s a bunch of people piled up,” Furyk said.
Included in that bunch is a group of six who are four shots back at three-over 213: Webb Simpson, 17-year-old amateur Beau Hossler, Kevin Chappell, John Senden, Jason Dufner and John Peterson.
Westwood was six shots behind the leaders to start the day, but he gave himself a reasonable chance to win his first major championship. He was three under on the inward nine, which looked a lot better to him than his bogey-bogey ending to the first nine.
Westwood said he has learned to relax under pressure and that has helped him take on the rigors of The Olympic Club.
“You got to look at people’s faces out there and they’re looking pretty wound up and stressed aren’t they?” said Westwood. “There aren’t many smiles. Which is a shame because it’s one of the biggest tournaments of the year and one that I would assume everybody looks forward to.”
That would include Els. The 1994 and 1997 U.S. Open champion gave himself a shot at another at the age of 42. He chipped in for eagle from the run-off area behind the 17th green and played his last 12 holes bogey-free and in five under.
“Quite amazing,” Els said of that 12-hole stretch. “Obviously the shot on 17 is what dreams are made of, a shot like that in the U.S. Open. So I’m really pleased.”
Jacobson, playing in his fifth U.S. Open, birdied three in a row to close out the first nine, while McDowell and Colsaerts made their move up the board simply by making pars.
Toms had the roughest start, with three bogeys and a double bogey littering his first six holes.
But McDowell said the tough holes at Olympic are not limited to the first six.
“Yes, there are bogeys to be made,” he said.
And there is also a U.S. Open to be won.
Thomas Bonk is a San Francisco-based freelance writer who is contributing to usopen.com this week.