Disparate outward attitudes, apparently, are just fine here at the Olympic Club, because Furyk and McDowell lead the 112th U.S. Open after 54 holes at 1 under par — the only players under par with just the final round remaining. Their advantage is two over Sweden’s Fredrik Jacobson and three over England’s Lee Westwood, South Africa’s Ernie Els
, Belgium’s Nicolas Colsaerts and American Blake Adams.
The central characters, then, are established. Both are former U.S. Open champions. Either could add another trophy Sunday.
“It’s wide open,” McDowell said.
Where, though, is Woods? The most stunning development Saturday — as McDowell, Jacobson and Els shot 2-under 68s, as Westwood bested them with a 67, as 17-year-old Beau Hossler managed an even-par round, and as birdies were removed from the endangered species list — is that Woods disappeared. He shared the lead after 36 holes, then posted an out-of-nowhere 75 that was filled with sloppy, baffling shots. Instead of being a front-runner, he sits 4 over.
“I’m definitely still in the ballgame,” Woods said. “I’m only five back. That’s definitely doable on this golf course.”
The way Woods played Thursday and Friday, when he went 69-70? Sure. But not the way he played Saturday, when the butchery began early. He bogeyed the first, the third, the fifth and the eighth. He hit into the trees at the monstrous, 671-yard 16th. He dumped a shot from the middle of the fairway into a greenside bunker at 17. And he stubbed a chip shot from an unenviable lie by the side of the green at 18. Generally speaking, on a day when 20 players shot par or better, a mess.
“I kept leaving myself in tough spots,” he said.
He is now in the toughest. Nine previous times, he has held at least a share of the lead at the midway point of a major. Eight times, he has converted. But if he’s to do that here, he will have to come from behind, a manner in which he has won zero of his 14 majors.
“There’s going to be a bunch of guys there with a chance,” Woods said.
Whether he is one of them is up for debate. Others are in the thick. Take the unexpected appearance of Westwood, who buried a 30-footer at 18 to match the low round of the day. He has never won a major, but his recent record in them is remarkable. In the last 11, dating from the 2009 British Open at Turnberry, Westwood has finished tied for third or better six times.
“I pick little bits out of all of those, but the main thing is just to go out there and believe that I’m good enough,” Westwood said. “I must be. I keep getting myself in contention often enough.”