Low scoring was again difficult at the U.S. Open on Sunday as the early starters in the final round battled to cope with the tight, slanting fairways, thick rough and slick greens at the Olympic Club.
While overnight leaders Jim Furyk and Graeme McDowell prepared for a mid-afternoon teeoff, only two players out on the course were under par for the day as fog and light breezes swept across the hilly Lake Course.
South Korean KJ Choi was two under after seven holes and five over for the tournament, two strokes better than Italy’s Francesco Molinari, who was two under for the round after 11 holes.
However, organizers had moved up some tee positions to create scoring opportunities in the final round, most notably at the par-five 16th where the hole will play around 100 yards shorter at 569 yards.
The driveable par-four seventh, at 264 yards, had already yielded plenty of red numbers with playing partners Rickie Fowler and Patrick Cantlay both eagling the hole.
Fowler struck a low stinger off the tee to a foot of the cup while fellow American Cantlay benefited from a favorable bounced just short of the green for his drive to settle six feet away.
Conditions were expected to remain hazy for the rest of the afternoon at Olympic where the year’s second major was set for a gripping finale.
Former winners Furyk and McDowell held a two-shot lead over their closest rivals but more than a dozen players were within five strokes of their one-under total of one-under total.
American Furyk, champion at Olympia Fields in 2003, carded an even-par 70 on Saturday to join 2010 winner McDowell of Northern Ireland, who fired a 68, at the top.
Sweden’s Fredrik Jacobsen was alone in third, two shots off the pace, with Britain’s Lee Westwood, Belgian Nicolas Colsaerts, American Blake Adams and South Africa’s Ernie Els a stroke further back.
Three-times champion Tiger Woods, aiming to end a major title drought of four years, was tied for 14th at four over after battling to a 75 on Saturday but probably had too many players ahead of him to secure victory.
“I’m just going to have to shoot a good round tomorrow, and post early and see what happens,” Woods said after the third round. “There’s going to be a bunch of guys there with a chance.”
A winner of 14 major titles, Woods has never triumphed by coming from behind going into the final round of one of golf’s blue riband events.
Watched by huge galleries as he teed off at the tricky par-four first in the company of fellow American Casey Wittenberg, Woods found the right rough with his opening shot and bogeyed the hole to slip further behind.