Westwood shoots 67 to grab US Open clubhouse lead
Lee Westwood, of England, reacts after making a birdie putt on the fifth hole during the third round of the U.S. Open Championship golf tournament Saturday, June 16, 2012, at The Olympic Club in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
SAN FRANCISCO - The top of the U.S. Open leaderboard is getting awfully crowded.
Lee Westwood shot a 3-under 67 in the third round to grab the clubhouse lead at 2 over Saturday, forced to sweat out the afternoon with a pack of notable names on the course.
Jim Furyk was 1 over through nine holes to drop to even par. Playing partner Tiger Woods three-putted on No. 8 for his fourth bogey, then holed a birdie putt from about 14 feet on No. 9 to make the turn at 2 over.
Webb Simpson, Kevin Chappell and John Senden all shot 2 under to reach 3 over.
Woods, Furyk and David Toms started the day two shots ahead of the field at 1 under but the tight, twisting fairways at The Olympic Club wreaked havoc again. Toms had four bogeys on his first six holes and was 3 over through 10 holes.
Welcome back, U.S. Open.
After Rory McIlroy shattered championship records to win at 16 under last year at rain-softened Congressional, dry conditions at the undulating Lake Course in San Francisco restored "golf's toughest test" and then some.
Once again, par might be good enough to win.
Westwood overcame two bogeys to finish with five birdies, the last coming when he trickled a putt from about 15 feet into the hole on the historic 18th hole to bring the crowd roaring to its feet. Now the Englishman, with 35 wins as a professional but no major title to his name, is again in the hunt at one of golf's grand slams.
"I think every time you get yourself in contention you learn something new," Westwood said. "I've been in contention a lot in different kinds of positions, leading, coming from behind. And in this tournament and other tournaments, the Masters, I finished third, so I was in contention there.
"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."
A sun-touched day with a blue sky and a slight breeze along the California coast created clean conditions and provided another majestic backdrop of San Francisco's steep hills. The dry weather also made the fast and fickle fairways even quicker, frustrating players and amateurs alike.
Furyk overcame a bogey on No. 1 and pared the next three holes to briefly take the lead. He also bogeyed the fifth to fall back into the crowd of leaders on the course until he birdied the seventh to move back to par.
That might be a great score this week.
McIlroy, Masters winner Bubba Watson and top-ranked Luke Donald all missed the cut. So did last week's winner at Memphis, Dustin Johnson, and 2010 British Open champion Louis Oosthuizen.
Phil Mickelson shot a 71 to go to 8 over for the tournament. He missed a putt to save par from about 7 feet on the 18th hole, but the crowd gave him some consolation.
A large chunk of fans on the hillside green below the stately clubhouse serenaded Mickelson with "Happy Birthday." Lefty turned 42 on Saturday.
"It's a long, difficult day, even though it's my birthday," Mickelson said. "And it was very flattering of the fans, thank you."
Follow Antonio Gonzalez at: www.twitter.com/agonzalezAP