Furyk & McDowell Share U.S. Open Lead

By: Jeff Shelley

Northern Ireland's Graeme McDowell carded a 2-under 68 to tie American Jim Furyk for the 54-hole lead in the U.S. Open. The 42-year-old Furyk, 2003 U.S. Open champion, posted an even-par 70 Saturday at the Olympic Club in San Francisco.

The two are at 1-under 209; they're the only players to reach under-par numbers after three rounds of the 112th U.S. Open.

After a bogey and eight pars on the dangerous front nine at Olympic's Lake Course, McDowell, the 2010 U.S. Open champion at Pebble Beach on California's Monterey Peninsula, reeled off three birdies on the back - including one on the last - to climb into contention. "I'm very pleased with my play," McDowell said during a TV interview.

He also seems to have the right mindset heading into the final round in search of his second U.S. Open trophy in three years. "You've got to put the game in perspective," he told reporters after the round. "Tomorrow is not going to be the be all and end all for me. Hopefully I've got a few more years in me. If I can go out tomorrow and not put it up on a pedestal, just try to go out and do any job. If it's good enough, great. If it's not, perhaps I'll drink a cold beer and get over it." (See below for McDowell's full post-round interview.)

Furyk began the day tied for the lead with Tiger Woods and David Toms; Furyk did the best of the three. The 45-year-old Toms posted a 6-over 76 which included six bogeys, a double and two birdies that dropped him to 5-over for the championship, while Woods had a 75.

"It just got really firm," Toms explained. "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. "So the golf course was, the best word for it was just firm, all day long. Everywhere around it. Greens were pretty slick, tough chipping, tough getting the ball close to the pin, and I think most of the good scores you saw were probably a little bit earlier than the leaders."

Woods got off to a lousy start, carding four bogeys in the first eight holes. A birdie on the ninth gave him a 3-over 37 at the turn. The three-time U.S. Open had two more bogeys on the home half to fall into a tie for 14th at 4-over 214 with two-time U.S. Open champion Retief Goosen (69), Martin Kaymer (69) and Matt Kuchar (71)

Woods showed his frustration with the round. As he walked to the clubhouse after exiting the 18th green he struck a camera held by a fan or photographer along the pathway. He was seen on TV shaking his hand in apparent pain. "I'm fine," Woods told reporters later.

As for his third-round performance, Woods offered, "I struggled on the greens today, quite a bit. They looked quick, but they putted slow. But they were firmer than they were yesterday. So it was a tough, tough feel for me to adjust to and it was amazing how all day I kept getting a half club. Just one of those days where I was right in between clubs on about every single shot. Just never quite had the right number.

"Tomorrow I'm just going to have to shoot a good round tomorrow, and post early and see what happens."

Fredrik Jacobson of Sweden played well, posting a 2-under 68 to rise up to solo third at 1-over 211. The 37-year-old's scorecard listed two bogeys and four birdies - including three in a row on Nos. 7-9. "It was a beautiful day out there. Perfect weather. Nice conditions. And I played some good golf," said Jacobson, a one-time winner on the PGA Tour who has three titles in Europe.

"I knew before the round that if I could put a good number up today that I most likely could give myself a chance for tomorrow. It was a big day out there today to try to close the gap a little bit and get into contention. So the first few holes I didn't hit the fairways and they're tough as it is, even if you are in the fairways. So I had to work really hard the first six holes to play those 1 over, and I think that was key. So I hit a good shot on 7 to get myself back to even and then played really solid from there."

Another European who excelled was Lee Westwood, the highest-ranked player left in the U.S. Open after Nos. 1 and 2 Luke Donald and defending U.S. Open champion Rory McIlroy missed the cut. The Englishman tied for Saturday's low round, a 3-under 67, to vault up the leaderboard to a respectable 2-over through 54 holes. "I had a lot of fun out there. Really enjoyed the day. Finished it off nicely. A lot of good chances to shoot a really good score out there.

"But obviously a 67 isn't a really low score, but I had a couple good chances at 16 and 17 that I didn't birdie and then I made the bomb at the last that you don't expect. So it was a good way to finish."

Westwood is tied for fourth at 212 with a resurgent Ernie Els (68), American Blake Adams (70) and Belgium's Nicolas Colsaerts (71). Els began with three bogeys in his first five holes but rebounded with three birdies and an eagle - on the par-5 17th - the rest of the way.

"I'm in a much better mood now than I was on the sixth tee," the two-time U.S. Open champion said later. "This afternoon I was 3 over for the round, 7 over for the event. So to come back and play the last 12 holes in 5 under is quite amazing, and obviously the shot on 17 is what dreams are made of, a shot like that in a U.S. Open. So I'm really pleased."

Colsaerts felt he could have gone lower if some putts had dropped. "I feel I played unbelievably well the first 12, 14 holes," said the 29-year-old two-time winner on the European Tour. "The plan was obviously to start well on these few holes, 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 then you set yourself in such a way that you just don't ask too much. I thought that the way I did my pars was the way I intended to do them, and that was all I that was the goal, pretty much."

Sharing eighth at 213 are Australia's John Senden (68) and Americans Webb Simpson (68), Kevin Chappell (68), amateur Beau Hossler (70), Jason Dufner (70) and first-round leader John Peterson (72).

Peterson had the shot of the day; the former LSU star aced the 181-yard, par-3 13th hole with a 7-iron. "I saw it go in . . . it was awesome that it went in," he said.

Hossler continued his remarkably mature play. The 17-year-old freshman-to-be at Texas carded his second even-par 70 of the championship and is still within eyeshot of the leaders.

"I had a great day," said the high school senior from Southern California. "I went out there and didn't really have any expectations except for to make sure that I'm getting the most out of my round like I've been saying. I got off to a pretty good start. Fortunately I heard from somebody that I had four bogeys but packed all of them up with a birdie and that really helped me to keep my round going."

The next lowest amateur is Jordan Spieth, a fellow Longhorn who fired a fine 1-under 69 to get to 217. Count Spieth among those impressed with Hossler's play. "You have to swing confidently off the tee. And if you're questioning your driver, that's huge," said Spieth, the 2009 and '11 U.S. Junior Amateur champion. "I guess he hasn't been hitting that many fairways, but he has the confidence to swing at the ball.

"I just watched a little bit of him yesterday and he's going out there and swinging hard at it. So he's got the confidence on the greens, too. He's kind of been holding it together, missing in the right spots, playing smart. If I had played very smart golf the first few days, I would have saved three or four shots overall and been in the same position."

Dufner figures Sunday at Olympic to be a shoot-out. "I think you could have a nice finish to the championship tomorrow with a lot of guys in the mix and I would like to make a run, obviously," said the winner of two titles this year on the PGA Tour. "Those first six holes are pretty tough to play too aggressive or crazy aggressive and pick up birdies, but go through that first six in even and maybe pick up a couple in the middle stretch and give your self a chance with those last couple holes."

Simpson said he was glad to finally get a feel for the host venue. "Overall, it was satisfying just in terms of finally kind of hitting it where we're looking.," said the North Carolinian. "The last couple of days or first couple of days were a little tougher, we scraped it around a little more. But I kept the ball in front of me today and was able to make some putts."

Celebrating his 42nd birthday Saturday, Phil Mickelson wasn't in much of a party mood after posting a 71 and finding himself at 8-over 218, nine back of Furyk and McDowell. The fans around the 18th green sang "Happy Birthday" for the four-time major winner.

"It was a long, difficult day, even though it's my birthday. And it was very flattering of the fans, thank you," he noted of the singing.

After his round, McDowell met with reporters for the following interview. The 32-year-old seems to have quite an affinity for the golf courses in Northern California.

MODERATOR: We'd like to welcome Graeme McDowell to the interview room at the Olympic Club at the 2012 U.S. Open. Very happy to have with us the 2010 U.S. Open champion, Graeme McDowell who had a 2 under of 68 today, currently stands 1 under, tied with Jim Furyk. Can you talk about the course today and your third round play?

GRAEME McDOWELL: Yeah, you know, 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. I look at guys at 2 and 3 and 4 over par in this tournament, who I really think they have a realistic shot to win tomorrow. There's a fine line in this golf course between 67, 68 and 75, 76. There really is. It's a tough course. You've really got to execute shots well. You've got to keep the ball on the correct side of the pin. And you've got to play well.

Today perhaps some of the pins were a little bit more accessible. The back nine on this golf course really gives you an opportunity. It plays quite short. You can get short iron in your hand quite a lot and have a chance to attack some pins and make some birdies. I was happy I did that well today. My tee shot on 9 was kind of a wake-up call for me. I had a big flare in the right trees there and made a bit of a Tarzan 5. And that kind of woke me up a little bit.

I needed to slow my swing down and get a good groove and rhythm to come in. I had some good shots coming in. And great to play the back nine 3 under par and get myself right in the mix for to tournament. That was really the goal today.

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. 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 just kind of talking about what we were trying to achieve today and got my head screwed back on again and realized today was trying to position for tomorrow. And really trying to go out and execute my game plan, get in a relaxed frame of mind and give myself an opportunity to play tomorrow and maybe have a chance to win. I was happy that I got myself emotionally in the right place today. Probably for the first time this week actually enjoyed the round of golf. It was quite nice out there.

Q. Twofold, first of all, how do you deal with the emotions of the difficulty of this course having to shake your head constantly saying I thought I had a good shot and it ends up where it ends up? And second of all, the feeling, is that much different now going in after a third round of a couple of years ago inside knowing you've done it?

GRAEME McDOWELL: To answer your first question, you've just really got to be unemotional as possible as you can on this golf course. I tried to go out today and have two emotions, good emotions and neutral ones. And try to shrug off mistakes, because they're going to come, they're inevitable on this golf course. I doubt anyone's come close to hitting 18 greens this week. You've got to accept that. You've got to accept that. You're going to have to grind a little bit, chip and putt well. I did that well today. I've got great support out here in San Francisco. There might be more Irish men out here than there are in Ireland.

But great support in the crowd. And I enjoyed interacting with them today and having a bit of fun. And I felt they kept me relaxed out there today. I'll be trying to do that tomorrow, as well. To answer your second part of the question, it doesn't feel much different than two years ago. I guess I know what to expect now. That's probably the only difference. Like I say, emotionally I went through the same experience today like I did two years ago. I was anxious and I was nervous. Two years ago, the Saturday was a tough day for me. And Sunday kind of felt a bit more normal, like Saturday would be my practice round, if you like.

And hopefully tomorrow I'll know what to expect for the day. Try to go in with the attitude that if I keep playing and preparing the way I'm preparing, for the biggest events in the world I will have more opportunities. If it happens for me tomorrow, great. If not, there will be more. So that's kind of the mindset.

Q. What do you expect tomorrow given how bunched it is, and given how a lot of the players have history, a lot of established players not far behind. What is it about northern California that seems to suit you so well?

GRAEME McDOWELL: What do I expect from tomorrow? I expect a great atmosphere on this golf course. It really is, just the way it's kind of set up, it's like a one sided amphitheater, going down to that slope. The atmosphere is great. The crowds are fantastic, and there really is a good buzz out there. I'll expect there to be large cheers going off. Maybe kind of a Sunday afternoon at Augusta, the way the cheers go around that place. I expect it to be similar tomorrow. All I can ask to give myself a chance down the stretch and hope for the best, really. I've enjoyed it today. I've enjoyed the buzz of it all.

What is it about northern California? I don't know. There's something about this kind of see air coming off the pacific that feels a little bit like home to me, I don't know. 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. But it's something in the air, in this Pacific Ocean, Pebble just down the road. It's been good to me, the West Coast, and hopefully it can continue tomorrow.

Q. What was the nature of the conversation this morning when you were feeling anxious and how did it help, why did it help?

GRAEME McDOWELL: Yeah, you know, just to verbalize - my caddie has heard it all before. I've gone through these emotions all the time. It's basic stuff. It's basically fear. Fear of going out there and messing it all up. I always remember reading Rotella's book when I was a kid, the two fears we all have are the fear of success and the fear of nail you're. I don't fear success. I only fear failure, really. We all do.

But I think being able to verbalize it with my team and talk to them about it and put it in perspective. You've got to put the game in perspective. Tomorrow is not going to be the be all and end all for me. Hopefully I've got a few more years in me. If I can go out tomorrow and not put it up on a pedestal, just try to go out and do any job. If it's good enough, great. If it's not, perhaps I'll drink a cold beer and get over it. That was kind of it. That was really my basic fears, just scared of going out there and messing up, really. I guess just talking to my team and just realizing that there's probably 71 other guys feeling the same way and 84 guys already have messed it up. It puts it in perspective a little bit.

Q. I guess people might be surprised that a U.S. Open champion might feel that?

GRAEME McDOWELL: Yeah, for sure. I think the handicap golfer can probably relate to some of the feelings I had today and they'd be surprised that, yes, we're human beings and we have negative thoughts. It's just important to - everyone has their ways of dealing with them. And I like to verbalize them and talk to my caddie about it. He tells me to wise up and other expletives. He gets me thinking correctly. And I'm lucky I've got a good team around me to help me with that. I did some work with Bob Rotella, but it was me doing the talking. I knew what he was going to say back to me. Like I say, it's basic stuff. You've just got to kind of get the mind in the right place and realize that we're all scared of messing it up. You might as well go and try to do good.

Q. Do you think they're going to consider changing this with the success comes tomorrow to the Irish Open?

GRAEME McDOWELL: Or the Northern Irish Open.

Q. I want to ask you about going into this round. There was so much attention obviously with Tiger having not won in four years, being tied for the lead, having a great success at the midway point when he was tied or ahead at a Major. At this point he is pretty far back, 5 back, I believe. Does someone like him in this position, still is he in contention on this course right now, knowing what he's accomplished before?

GRAEME McDOWELL: You know, I look at the leaderboard, and I see Tiger's name, but I see other great names there, as well, Lee Westwood and David Toms and guys who know how to get the job done. I think 4 over is about as far back as you can look. It's fairly crowded. I think someone will go and shoot 69 or 70 tomorrow and get the job done. What are we, 1 under par? You know, 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. The scoring was quite good, I thought. And 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 anyway. I'm sure Tiger believes he has a chance going out tomorrow as do other players. I don't think you can look much further back than 4 over par.

Q. You seemed almost relieved not to have to sleep on the 54 hole lead maybe two years ago, and Dustin Johnson take that pressure on his shoulders. How do you feel about it this time you're sharing it with Jim?

GRAEME McDOWELL: I think the relief two years ago was probably due to the fact that I'd been leading the U.S. Open for about probably - I got off the golf course on Friday around noon, noon thirty, and I didn't tee it up again until 3:50 the next day. It had been 27 odd hours with the build-up, with the pressure. And like I say, the relief on Saturday night was done with that. I was fed up having to sleep on it and I was happy to let someone else do all this stuff. It was late Saturday night. I feel good right now. I feel great. Like I say, my mindset is, yeah, myself and Jimmy are tied up, but there's a lot of guys can still win this tournament. I spent the first two days with him. He's a great guy to play with. He's a great example of how to win U.S. Opens, his type of game. He doesn't make mistakes. Good putter. And kind of the type of game that I need to have tomorrow, again, to have a chance.

Q. When you look ahead to tomorrow, do you think the Open will be lost on the first 6 or won on the last 12?

GRAEME McDOWELL: Good question. You know, I like playing the golf course the way we played it today, off 1. I found playing it off 9 very difficult yesterday because you kind of start off in the scoring part of the golf course and you know you've got to make your score there and then hang on for dear life those first 8 holes. When you start off on 1 you're in the mindset where you're trying to get into your round and you're plodding and being more conservative. I enjoy playing the first 6 and getting them out of the way. I think the last 12 holes are no doubt the scoreable part of the golf course. It's an interesting course in that there's not a lot of like - there's no water hazards. There's no real massive trouble you can get into.

Yeah, there's bogeys to be made, but not a lot of big numbers. There's not like a jungle out there or anything. It's just deep rough. If you get in trouble, you've got to chip back and get back to par. You play the first 6 solidly, you have a chance to make score. I think this tournament will be won on the last 12 tomorrow.

Q. The physicality of the course, have you noticed through three days the walking up and down, the elevation changes. Have they taken their toll? Looks like the third shot on 17 came up short. But do you notice the legs come up a little short at the end?

GRAEME McDOWELL: Yeah, my legs have been pretty fatigued in the evening. My physio was kind of flushing my legs out for me last night saying there was a fair bit of lactic acid in there. I don't want to say this course is physically demanding. It's golf. We're just talk walking 18 holes. It's not that physical, really. The U.S. Open, the demand comes from the mental torture out there. It's mentally draining. Every shot, you're trying to give it your full attention. You're on edge every time. And I think that's why we're tired in the evenings. My third shot at 17, I kind of second guessed myself there. And we're kind of heading back into the sun, and it was a pretty awful shot. I feel good. I realize that I'm on a little bit of adrenaline right now. From past experience I know that I've got to go back and rest up tonight and eat good and get some good sleep and there will be no fatigue tomorrow. The crowd keeps us buzzing, and hopefully there will be enough adrenaline in the system. I don't think fatigue is going to be a factor.

Q. Both you and Jim have been complimentary about each others games. I was wondering if there was much talk during the first two rounds, and whether you think there will be much talk going on tomorrow?

GRAEME McDOWELL: Jimmy is the kind of guy that gets on with his own business and doesn't have much to say. I've played with Jim many times. I know him well. I don't think there will be a huge amount of talk out there tomorrow. It's down to business. It's Sunday afternoon. We both want to win, as do a lot of guys. Like I said, we get on well and our games are very similar in many ways, and he's a tough competitor. He's definitely going to be hanging around tomorrow. And I just need to do the same. He's a great guy to play with. I will enjoy his company.

Q. Could you talk a little bit about your last two years since you won the U.S. Open? A lot of people weren't mentioning your name coming in here, which is surprising, considering you won just two years ago. How do you feel you've played the last couple of years and was there any type of U.S. Open hangover after you won the Pebble?

GRAEME McDOWELL: Yeah, you know, I've talked a lot about the four or five month experience I had last year from about March through August, which was probably my U.S. Open hangover, if you like. I went through a period where I wasn't swinging the club very well. I was impatient and frustrated and didn't like the person that I was on the golf course anymore. I was putting too much pressure on myself. Apart from that I look at my two years as reasonably successful. I had a decent end to 2010, decent start to 2011. I finished strong last year.

I feel like my game has been quite similar this year. My last month's golf, I missed a couple of cuts, and hence shot myself off the radar this week. But I've known, and my camp has known that my game's been there or thereabouts. And we've been waiting for a weekend like this to really focus and get us in contention. We welcome the opportunity tomorrow afternoon. My game's been there or thereabouts. I've really enjoyed my last couple of years there. There's been ups and downs, as have most careers, and I've learned a lot from the last couple of years. It's been a great experience. And the things I've learned I will definitely pour back into my game tomorrow afternoon.

Q. Just wanted to you about your closing birdie. It seemed like you ran up the steps after the hole?

GRAEME McDOWELL: Yeah, those steps are an interesting set of steps. You birdie the last and you seem to bounce up them for some reason. That was a nice closing birdie today. Not birdying - well, I was going to say not birdieing 16, that's the second most difficult hole in the course, so I can't ask for that. Not birdieing 17 was disappointing. I hit a bad tee shot and a pretty sloppy third shot. It was nice to finish in a little bit of style. It makes that little trip up to the clubhouse a little easier. Like I say, it's a tough walk when you just made bogey, but it's an easy one when you just make birdie.

Q. You made reference to all the Irish men here in San Francisco, any example, any memorable moment on the course where someone said something or you had any interaction?

GRAEME McDOWELL: You know, plenty of reference to drinking Guinness and pints. People are stereotyping me. I don't know what's going on out there. Kind of under some illusion I like a cold beer. Not really, no. No standout moments. Just a really good support. I felt it at Pebble, and I'm feeling it here. I feel like the crowd is pulling for me and that's always nice. I can kind of pull some energy from them. I try to interact with them and have fun out there today. They kind of keep me going. And we've got some really good friends in town. Johnny Foley is in town. Has been a regular hang out, not for me but my caddie and my friends this week. And perhaps I might have a couple of cold Guinness in there tomorrow night if they go well. And if they don't do well, probably do the same thing.

MODERATOR: Thanks, Graeme. Wish you well tomorrow.

The transcript for the above interview is courtesy of ASAP Sports.