McDowell, Furyk face long day at Olympic

Graeme McDowell knows how quickly it all can change on Sunday at

the U.S. Open.

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.

McDowell is in the final group again this year at The Olympic

Club, only he has company. Not only is he tied with Jim Furyk, but

11 others are within four shots of the lead.

”It doesn’t feel much different than two years ago,” McDowell

said Saturday night. ”I guess I know what to expect now. That’s

probably the only difference. Emotionally, I went through the same

experience today like I did two years ago. I was anxious and I was

nervous. Two years ago, Saturday was a tough day for me. And

hopefully tomorrow, I’ll know what to expect for the day.”

For a U.S. Open, expect anything.

Olympic has no water hazards, one fairway bunker and only two

players under par. The bogeys come from getting out of position off

the tee and even on the greens. The higher scores come from players

unwilling to take their lumps after a poor shot.

History has not been kind to the leaders over the last

decade.

Rory McIlroy was different, 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 Tiger 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.

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.

”It doesn’t have to look or be fancy. It has to work,” Furyk

said. ”And I think we have styles of games where we put the ball

into play, we put the ball on the green and take our chance at the

putt and then move on.”

Even so, McDowell was more interested in looking behind him on

the leaderboard instead of ahead to another Sunday celebration.

”It’s wide open,” he said. ”I look at guys a 2- and 3- and

4-over par in this tournament, who I really think have a realistic

shot to win,” he said. ”There’s a fine line on this golf course

between 67, 68 and 75, 76. There really is. It’s a tough course.

You’ve 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.”

There’s an eclectic mix of players in range.

Ernie Els is a three-time major champion. Lee Westwood is

desperate for his first. Blake Adams is playing in his first U.S.

Open. John Peterson, the NCAA champion from LSU, is a year removed

from college. Beau Hossler, the 17-year-old wonder, still has

another year of high school. Nicolas Colsaerts of Belgium can

overpower a golf course. Jason Dufner, a two-time winner this year,

prefers to plod his way around.

Not to be entirely overlooked is Tiger Woods, though he has

never come from behind – five shots, in this case – to win a

major.

And then there’s the history of Olympic Club, that doesn’t bode

well for the favorites.

The winners of the four U.S. Opens at Olympic – Jack Fleck,

Billy Casper, Scott Simpson and Lee Janzen – have a combined seven

majors. The guys who finished second to them – Ben Hogan, Arnold

Palmer, Tom Watson and Payne Stewart – collectively won 27

majors.

Perhaps that’s why Olympic is known as the ”graveyard of

champions,” that and the fact that Hogan, Palmer and Watson never

won another major after their close calls at Olympic. The exception

was Stewart, who won the U.S. Open the following year, but then

perished in a freak plane crash that fall.

As the third round was headed for a conclusion, McDowell and

Furyk showed their mettle by making key pars and a late birdie.

Westwood had finished his 67, and then Els came through a 68 to get

into the mix.

Suddenly this U.S. Open had its version of Hogan and Watson and

Palmer.

But as the possibilities started to expand, that brought forth

another question. Who’s going to be Jack Fleck?