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U.S. Open: Two share U.S. Open lead; Tiger Wood fades back into the pack

By Doug Ferguson

Associated Press

Published: Saturday, June 16 2012 10:44 p.m. MDT

Furyk, the only player who has not had a round over par in this championship, and McDowell played together in the opening two rounds. Both are similar players who appear to be a good fit for Olympic — control off the tee and a strong fight to avoid bogeys. McDowell referred to Furyk as a "plodder," which at the U.S. Open is a high compliment.

"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."

But this was not shaping up as a two-man race for McDowell and Furyk.

"Looking at the leaderboard, you've got to look down as far as the guys at 3 or 4 (over) as having a realistic chance of winning this tournament," McDowell said.

That includes some regular characters, such as Westwood and Els and even two-time U.S. Open champion Retief Goosen, who was five shots behind. And it features newcomers to this stage like Nicolas Colsaerts, the big hitter from Belgium — and even a high school kid.

For every bogey Hossler made, he answered with a birdie on the next hole.

His only big blunder came on the 11th, when he was too aggressive with a downhill putt and missed his par putt from 6 feet. Two holes later, he hit a heavy chip from the hazard that rolled back down a slope for another bogey. The kid just wouldn't go away, though, and suddenly he is dreaming big.

Hossler wanted to make the cut. Then, he wanted to be the low amateur. Now?

"My goal now is to win the tournament," he said.

In the 14 majors he has won, Woods was never worse than par in the pivotal third round and had a scoring average of 68.3. There was no way that was going to hold up on a course like Olympic, though Woods was expecting better than what he delivered on this Saturday.

He missed the first fairway, came up short of the third green and wound up with three bogeys through six holes.

Woods wasn't alone in making mistakes. David Toms, tied for the second-round lead with Furyk and Woods at 1 under, played that rugged six-hole stretch in 5 over and fell six shots behind with a 76.

Even with the USGA watering the course Friday night and Saturday morning, Olympic was as relentless as ever.

But it wasn't impossible.

Westwood showed that, as did Els, who called it as easy as the course played all week.

Kevin Chappell, who tied for third last year to earn a spot in this U.S. Open, had a 68 and takes an unthinkable streak of 24 holes without a bogey into the final round. He was at 3-over 213, along with Webb Simpson, who also had a 68.

Asked if the experience at Congressional would help, Chappell gave an apt description of what awaits on Sunday.

"Last year we were trying to make birdies in the U.S. Open," he said. "And here, you're just trying to survive."

Westwood came in right behind Chappell, and while he failed to take advantage on the par 5s, he finished in style with a 40-foot birdie putt on the 18th for a 67. Westwood began this week as the third wheel in a powerful threesome of the top players in the world ranking. Luke Donald, the world No. 1, and defending champion Rory McIlroy have gone home. Westwood now has another chance to pick up his first major.

He twice has missed a playoff by one shot, in the 2008 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines and the 2009 British Open at Turnberry. He twice as been runner-up in the majors.

A win on Sunday would end that heartache, and return him to No. 1 in the world.

"I think I've probably been in contention in major championships more than anybody else over the last three or four years," Westwood said. "So I'm looking forward to tomorrow and hopefully go out and have some fun and see what happens."

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