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Westwood closes in on US Open lead, elusive major

Lee Westwood has been here 57 times before.

No reason for him to get excited anymore.

Not yet.

Still, Westwood shot a 3-under 67 — matching the best score in the third round — on Saturday at an unforgiving U.S. Open to put himself in position for his first major victory.

Coming off a European Tour victory last week in Sweden, the Englishman made one of the biggest leaps on moving day by closing to 2 over for the tournament and three back shots of leaders Graeme McDowell and Jim Furyk at The Olympic Club.

"I think every time you get yourself in contention you learn something new," Westwood said. "I've been in contention a lot in different kinds of positions, leading, coming from behind."

Just not when it counts.

Westwood has been a runner-up at the Masters and the British Open and helped lead Europe to victory in the Ryder Cup. He's had three top-five U.S. Open finishes in 12 appearances, including a tie for third last year at Congressional.

No major title yet.

Except for "best to never win a major."

Westwood overcame two bogeys on the front nine to close with five birdies, the last coming when he trickled a putt from about 15 feet into the hole on the historic 18th to bring the hillside crowd roaring to its feet. Now the 39-year-old Englishman, with 35 official wins around the globe, is again in the hunt at one of golf's grand slams.

And once again, he has to finish — or that label isn't going anywhere.

"Not just majors, but game of golf in general, just beating myself up about it when I don't win," he said. "It's tough to win out here. And I think there's more to it. All you can do is perform as good as possible and see what happens after that."

Westwood might have been one of the more notable names to climb up the leaderboard, but he wasn't the only one to make a charge on moving day.

Fredrik Jacobson of Sweden birdied the final three holes on the front nine to card a 68 and pull within two shots of the leaders in second. Belgium's Nicolas Colsaerts (71), Ernie Els (68) and Blake Adams (70) also were tied with Westwood at 212 through three rounds.

"I knew before the round that if I could put a good number up today that I most likely could give myself a chance," said Jacobson, who tied for fifth in the 2003 U.S. Open at Olympia Fields outside Chicago. "It was a big day out there today to try to close the gap a little bit and get into contention."

Others might have played their way out.

And not just Tiger Woods.

David Toms, who shared the 36-hole lead with Woods and Furyk at 1 under, played that savage six-hole opening stretch in 5 over and fell six shots behind with a 76. Then again, a 14-time major champion named Woods (75) hacked his way through the undulating Lake Course's rough more than the fairways, too.

"(The course) just got really firm," Toms said. "I think that was part of my problem today, I kept trying to stretch my iron shots to be able to keep from hitting them over the greens. So every time I was in between clubs, I always hit the shorter one to try to hit it hard and it didn't work out too well."

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Follow Antonio Gonzalez: www.twitter.com/agonzalezAP

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