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SAN FRANCISCO: Joint overnight leader Tiger Woods saw his hopes of ending a four year winless drought in the majors take a blow in Saturday’s third round of the US Open as he bogeyed four of the first eight holes.
Starting the day on one-under 139, level with fellow Americans Jim Furyk and David Toms, the former world No.1 quickly fell victim to the opening six holes at The Olympic Club, which he rates as being one of the toughest stretches in major golf.
Woods bogeyed the first, third and sixth, and worse was to follow at the relatively easy par-three eighth where he three-putted to further plummet down the leaderboard.
It was starting to look bleak for the 36-year-old American, who is seeking his 15th major title, but he got a timely boost at the ninth when he sunk a 15-footer for birdie and a score of 37 at the turn.
Toms went in the same direction by dropping five strokes in six holes and only Furyk, the US Open champion at Olympia Fields, Chicago in 2003, held firm with two bogeys and a birdie to reach the turn in 35 and remain ahead at level par.
As the leaders faltered, the chasing pack tasted blood and the main early mover was England’s world No.3 Lee Westwood, who came in with a day’s equal best score at that point of three-under 67 to get to two over for the tournament.
Westwood has come agonisingly close in all four major tournaments over the last few years, and with the early exits of countryman Luke Donald and defending champion Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland, he is the highest-ranking player left in the field.
“I’m really pleased. I gave myself a lot of birdie chances and a couple on 16 and 17 that would have made it a spectacular round,” he said.
“I hit a lot more fairways and didn’t really struggle, even the two bogeys I had chances to make par.
“I played a sensible, professional round. I’m always excited. Major championships are good fun and it’s nice to shoot a good round and be in with a chance tomorrow.”
Nipping at the heels of leader Furyk down the front nine were Belgium’s Nicolas Colsaerts and Irishman Graeme McDowell, the winner of the 2010 US Open, who started the day as part of a four-way tie for second place, two shots off the leading trio.
Colsaerts, who beat McDowell in the final of the recent Volvo World Matchplay tournament in Spain, had 10 straight pars to remain at one over, while his playing partner had eight pars in a row, then a bogey and a birdie at the 10th.
The big-hitting Belgian then birdied the 11th to take a share of the lead with Furyk on level par.
Sweden’s Peter Jacobson was level with Westwood on two over after playing 15 holes and they were joined by Jason Dufner after 13 holes.
With the tournament having its hottest day and the Olympic Club course’s greens and fairways gaining in firmness, expectations were that level par would be close to the overall lead by the end of the day.
Five-time runner-up Phil Mickelson was looking to celebrate his 42nd birthday in style with a charge up the leaderboard having just made it past the cut by one stroke at seven over.
But little happened for the Californian lefty as he bogeyed the last to finish with a 71, leaving him all but out of it at eight over. -- AFP