SAN FRANCISCO -- Jim Furyk is alone at the top in the U.S. Open and the only player at par.
Furyk was 1 over through six holes Sunday in the final round, building a two-shot lead over five players while an eerie fog swallowed The Olympic Club.
Playing partner Graeme McDowell, even with Furyk through 54 holes, was 3 over on his round. He was tied with Webb Simpson, John Peterson and Michael Thompson in second.
Ernie Els eagled the short par-4 seventh -- his second eagle in two days on the unleveled Lake Course -- by driving the green and sinking an eight-foot putt to come within a stroke of Furyk. But then the South African left his tee shot short on the eighth, watching it trickle back in the shaved grass some 50 feet and settling for bogey. He also bogeyed the ninth to fall three shots back.
Lost in the fog was Lee Westwood.
The accomplished Englishman, still searching for his first major, never found his tee shot on the par-4 fifth. His drive land left near the towering cypress trees, the same area 1998 winner Lee Janzen’s ball landed.
While a gust of wind knocked Janzen’s ball loose after several minutes, Westwood wasn’t so lucky. He searched with a pair of binoculars but never located the ball, getting shuttled in a cart back to the tee. He double bogeyed the hole to drop to 4 over and likely out of contention.
It was all about saving par.
Furyk has done that better than anybody
Furyk’s drive found the left rough on No. 1, he laid up and floated his approach 4 feet short of the pin to save par. McDowell’s drive stayed in the fairway -- where he has been all week -- and his second landed in the shaved grass short of the green, where he two-putted for par.
The only blemish on his round came on the par-4 sixth, when he ran his approach off the back of the green and left his chip shot short. He two-putted for bogey.
McDowell’s tee shot on the par-3 third landed short. He chipped past the hole and two putted for a bogey, the first of three during the difficult opening six holes.
If there’s a tie at the end of the day, there will be an 18-hole playoff Monday.
Tiger Woods dropped six strokes in the treacherous first six holes, including a double bogey on the par-3 third when he chunked a shot out of the rough and two-putted. He was 5 over through 12 holes -- nine shots behind Furyk -- and still waiting to end his four-year major drought.
The 17-year-old Beau Hossler saved par on No. 1 with a putt out of the fringe, giving a light fist pump and hearing roars the once belonged to Woods. Chants of "Let’s go Hossler!" could be heard from the second green when Woods was lining up his putt, which he left short for a bogey.
But Hossler bogeyed three straight holes, falling to 5 over on the round through 10 holes. He was seven shots back.
History hasn’t been kind to the 54-hole leaders over the last decade.
Rory McIlroy was different last year, but he was playing a different kind of U.S. Open at Congressional, which was soft from rain and yielded a record score. Throw out his 69 in the final round, and you have to go all the way back to Woods at Pebble Beach in 2000 to find a 54-hole leader who broke par.
Aaron Baddeley had a two-shot lead going into the final round at Oakmont. He three-putted from 8 feet for a triple bogey on the opening hole and shot 80. Retief Goosen was going for his third U.S. Open title in five years at Pinehurst in 2005 when he took a three-shot lead into the final round. It was gone in three holes and he shot 81.
McDowell was three shots behind going into the final round at Pebble Beach two years ago when he watched Dustin Johnson hit wedge toward the second green and take five more shots for a triple bogey. Just like that, the lead was gone, and so was Johnson. He closed with an 82
Such a closing round would not seem likely for McDowell and Furyk. Not only are they U.S. Open champions (then again, so was Goosen), they have controlled games and toughness that makes them equipped for a fight against par.
Furyk won at Olympia Fields in 2003 and McDowell took home the title two years ago down the coast at Pebble Beach.
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