9:25am Sunday 17th June 2012
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Graeme McDowell was California dreaming again after moving into a tie for the lead with Jim Furyk with a round to go at the US Open.
Winner at Pebble Beach two years ago, the 32-year-old Northern Irishman birdied the final hole of his third round for a superb 68 over the treacherous Olympic Club in San Francisco.
The added bonus was that Tiger Woods gave a really poor performance in his pursuit of a 15th major. Joint leader at halfway with Furyk and David Toms, Woods was nothing like the impressive figure of the opening 36 holes and with a five-over-par 75 dropped into a tie for 14th.
Only Toms with a 76 scored worse in the top 60 players. He is now five back and will need no reminding that he has never won a major from behind on the final day.
Among those who came past him was Lee Westwood. A 67 that matched the low score of the round lifted the world number three all the way from 29th into a tie for fourth. The Worksop 39-year-old, making his 57th attempt to land a major and with a record-equalling seven top-three finishes behind him, will tee off again only three behind.
McDowell followed eight opening pars with a bogey on the 449-yard ninth. But the back nine is where most of the birdie chances come and he holed putts of four feet on the 10th, 10 feet at the short 13th and then another four-footer on the last.
McDowell said: "The ninth was a wake-up call. I realised my swing was getting quick and snatchy. Then the save on the 12th was huge. I thought I was in the bushes over the green, but making four spurred me on. I am firing pretty much on all cylinders. The key is not looking at leaderboards. It's not just me and Jim. There are a lot of guys who can win."
Furyk shot a rollercoaster 70. He bogeyed the first and fifth, birdied the seventh and 11th, took six on the 670-yard 16th, then two-putted the 522-yard 17th for his third birdie.
Woods was off right from the start. He dropped shots on four of the first eight and even a 10-foot birdie putt at the ninth did not spark him into life. He too took six on the 16th after driving into the trees and finding a bunker with his third. The worst was saved for the last, a stubbed chip from beside the green leading to yet another bogey.
Swede Fredrik Jacobson (68) is third on one over, two behind, while alongside Westwood are Belgian Nicolas Colsaerts, American Blake Adams and South Africa's 1994 and 1997 champion Ernie Els, who chipped in for eagle at the 17th.
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