San Francisco, CA – The final group in the season's second major will have a pair of former winners battling alongside each other for the third time this week.
Graeme McDowell, the 2010 champ, posted a 2-under 68 on Saturday to join Jim Furyk in the lead after three rounds of the 112th U.S. Open Championship.
Furyk, the 2003 winner, managed an even-par 70 at The Olympic Club to maintain a piece of the lead. The two former champions finished 54 holes at 1-under-par 209.
The duo played alongside each other in the first two rounds this week.
"It could be, it could very well be," Furyk said on TV if an even-par round would be good enough to win the title tomorrow. "I played with Graeme the first two rounds. He was playing well those first two days and I understand why he shot 68 today."
Fredrik Jacobson matched McDowell's 68 to climb into third place at 1-over-par 211.
World No. 3 Lee Westwood matched the low round of the day with his 3-under 67. He moved into a share of fourth place at 2-over-par 212. He stands alongside two-time champion Ernie Els (68), Nicolas Colsaerts (71) and Blake Adams (70).
Three-time champion Tiger Woods struggled to a 5-over 75 to tumble from a share of the lead into a tie for 14th at 4-over-par 214. Woods has never come from behind to win a major.
"This is the U.S. Open, you just need to hang around. First off, you need to get off to a good start, get through the first six because anything can happen the last three holes," Woods stated. "I'm definitely still in the ballgame."
David Toms, who shared the second-round lead with Furyk and Woods, faltered to a six-over 76 to slide into a share of 18th at plus-5.
Amateur Beau Hossler maintain his excellent play this week as he managed another even-par 70 in round three. Hossler is tied for eighth at 3-over 213. He stands alongside five others include Kevin Chappell, who had a bogey-free 68, Jason Dufner (70) and John Peterson (72), who had a hole-in-one on the par-3 13th.
Two-time champion Retief Goosen (69), Matt Kuchar (71) and Martin Kaymer (69) share 14th with Woods at plus-4.
Phil Mickelson, who turned 42 on Saturday, posted a 1-over 71 to end three rounds at 8-over-par 218.
Toms was in the penultimate group and tripped to a bogey on the first. He went on to bogey three and five, then double-bogey the sixth to tumble to 4-over for the championship. He never got back in it from there.
Woods had never shot worse than 71 when holding at least a share of the 36- hole lead in a major. He also bogeyed the first, then went on to bogey three, six and nine.
His first, and only birdie, came at the ninth. On the back nine, Woods failed to make any birdies as he left several putts short all day. He bogeyed the long 16th after a poor drive, and the 18th after a poor chip.
"Well they looked quick. They were certainly much more firm than they were yesterday, but they putted slower. I had a hard time making that adjustment," Woods said in a televised interview about the greens. "They looked and putted two different things."
Furyk, like Toms and Woods, also bogeyed the first. He also dropped a stroke on the fifth to slip to 1-over par. That created a 5-way tie for the lead with Jacobson, McDowell, Colsaerts, Woods and Furyk.
As Jacobson, Colsaerts and Woods eventually fell off the pace, McDowell, who played two groups ahead of Furyk and Woods, parred the first eight holes to remain at 1-over par.
Furyk reclaimed the lead at even-par with a 10-foot birdie putt on the seventh.McDowell dropped a shot on the ninth, but atoned for that mistake with a birdie on the 10th. He drained a birdie at 13 to join Furyk at even-par.
Furyk responded with a 10-footer for birdie on the 11th. His drive on the long 16th found deep rough. After he punched down the fairway, Furyk dumped his third in a greenside bunker.
He blasted to 12 feet, but failed to make the par-saving putt. He had gotten up and down from the sand three times earlier in the round.
McDowell briefly took the lead at 1-under when he rolled in a four-footer for birdie at the last.
"Obviously delighted with my effort today. Myself and Jim played together the first two rounds, so we'll have the pleasure of one another's company tomorrow. It's wide open," McDowell stated.
Furyk matched him at minus-1 with a two-putt birdie from the fringe on No. 17. With a chance at regaining the outright lead, Furyk's birdie effort from just over 20 feet stayed about ground.
The two leaders took divergent paths to their titles. Furyk led by three after 54 holes and won two, while McDowell trailed by three before winning by one.
"I remember two years ago at Pebble, Saturday being a really difficult day for me, mentally and emotionally. And today was the same way, to be honest with you," McDowell admitted. "As I was getting ready to come to the golf course today I felt a little nervous and anxious and really kind of not sure how the day was going to go.
"And I spent a little time with my caddie and my team...and got my head screwed back on again and realized today was trying to position for tomorrow."
NOTES: Furyk has won nine of the 18 times he had at least a piece of the 54- hole lead on the PGA Tour, and he led by three in after three rounds in his lone major championship victory...Between the PGA and European Tours, McDowell has won five of the seven times he had at least a piece of the 54-hole lead...Peterson's hole-in-one was the only one of the championship through three rounds.