|Don't look now Graeme McDowell, but there's a close pack chasing you and co-leader Jim Furyk heading into the final round of the 112th U.S. Open today. (Getty Images/AFP)
If California Dreamin’ has been the Mamas and the Papas tune in your mind as proceedings continue at San Francisco’s Olympic Club, you might try whistling a different tune by the same band. Monday, Monday definitely comes to mind.
The possibility of an 18-hole playoff on Monday is becoming very real.
Some of the self-appointed experts pulled out an old cliche on Friday and said the U.S. Open was Tiger Woods’ to lose, which Tiger seemed ready to prove with four bogeys his first eight holes on Saturday, but he wasn’t alone. It didn’t take Jim Furyk and David Toms long to back up, either.
It could still be Tiger’s tournament and that would set up a familiar scene for him, dating back to his last major championship when he went through 18 holes plus on a bum leg against Rocco Mediate at the 2008 U.S. Open at another California course, Torrey Pines.
Tiger is one of many who can win, but he’ll have to do it in an unusual way by coming from behind.
The top of the leaderboard is more crowded than ever for different reasons. The lead has moved back since Michael Thompson’s four-under 66 on Thursday, but now, players are starting to charge.
Fredrik Jacobson had a 68 on Saturday and is at one-over.
How much of a chance did you give Lee Westwood to win his first major after his 73 on Thursday? Yet, Westwood shot an impressive 67 on Saturday to put himself in contention at two-over.
Two-time U.S. Open champ Ernie Els shook off a shaky start and shot a 68, including an eagle on 17, to join the group at two-over which also includes Nicholas Colsaerts (71) and Blake Adams (70).
Meanwhile, Furyk (70) and 2010 Open winner Graeme McDowell (68) aren’t looking like they plan to move very far off their lead of one-under on Sunday.
So, the newcomers to the top of the leaderboard are crowding the guys who have been hanging around all week and gridlock is forming as we go into Sunday ... and quite possibly, Monday.
It might be a good idea to start practicing that fake cough for when you call the boss Monday morning.
Every now and again, the United States Golf Association throws a changeup at you, which seemed to be the case with green speeds in the third round. You’ll recall Furyk leaving a putt short on No. 1, which he bogeyed, indicating an adjustment was needed on what seemed to be slower greens, although they were listed at more than 12 on the stimpmeter. Tiger was obviously struggling, as well ... When Furyk birdied the seventh hole, it marked the first by a player in the final three groups ... “The greens were definitely softer today than they were even yesterday and I played in the morning, and I thought that,” said Casey Wittenburg, who shot a 67 to get it to five over for the tournament ... When Furyk and Woods bogeyed one, nobody in the field was under par ... Phil Mickelson was serenaded after his round on the occasion of his 42nd birthday. Olympic didn’t give him a gift though as Mickelson shot a 71 to leave him at eight over, not enough for a comeback ... Amateur Jordan Spieth shot a respectable 69 yesterday as did 2007 U.S. Open champ Angel Cabrera, but both are at plus seven ... Michael Allen, the two-time Champions Tour winner this year who is a member at the Olympic Club, is out of it at 11-over, but hey, he made the cut and had a memorable moment yesterday when he eagled the 17th ... John Peterson had the 42nd ace in U.S. Open history on the 13th hole.
BUBBA A BETTER DH
Masters champ Bubba Watson will console himself on his missed cut at the Olympic Club by throwing out the first pitch at the Orioles-Mets game in New York on Monday. Earlier in the week, Rory McIlroy and Dustin Johnson threw out the first pitch at Giants games in San Francisco. Not sure of their curveballs or sliders, but all hit foul balls before their MCs at the Open ... When Woods posted bogeys on five, six and seven in the second round, it was the first time since 2006 that he was over par on three consecutive holes in a U.S. Open ... Tournament officials pushed the tee boxes back on the monster par-5 16th and it played full out at 670 yards. It’s expected to be shorter for the final round ... There is a possibility of fog/mist during the final round, when temperatures are expected to be a little cooler ... We’ve been discussing the first six holes at the Olympic Club and some of the carnage there. They stung the lone Canadian in the field on Saturday as Calgary’s Stephen Ames double bogeyed the sixth to finish six over in that stretch. Actually, the entire front nine was nasty to Ames who was eight over on the front side. Toms was five over on the first six, including a double bogey on the sixth hole. Joe Ogilvie was six over on the first six, including a double bogey on four ... NBC Sports, with its chats, features and shots of Tiger on the range interspersed with actual play, was biding its time until the last few groups teed off. Can’t blame them either because not much was going on at the time. The wake-up call seemed to come when first round leader Michael Thompson sunk one from the fairway for a birdie on one, to move to within one shot of the leaders just before they teed off.