SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Jim Furyk has been a superb front-runner on the PGA Tour so understandably likes his chances going into Sunday’s final round at the Olympic Club tied for the U.S. Open lead.
With his rock-steady game, the 42-year-old American has flourished in the year’s second major and proved he was back to his dogged best as he outscored playing partner Tiger Woods by five shots on Saturday.
A former U.S. Open champion, Furyk recovered from two early bogeys to card a level-par 70 on the tough Lake Course at Olympic, ending a sun-drenched day of tactical maneuvering level with Northern Ireland’s Graeme McDowell at one-under 209.
”The first six holes were tough,“ the 16-times PGA Tour winner told reporters after covering the back nine in one-under 35. ”I got off to a little slow start being two over for six.
“But I kept myself in good position. It seemed like a couple of us were able to come back and play pretty well for the last 12 holes and make a good round out of it.”
Though Furyk has not won on the PGA Tour since his stellar 2010 campaign, which featured three tournament victories, he has triumphed 10 times out of 17 when holding at least a share of the lead after 54 holes. Not once did he finish worse than second.
”Obviously I like being up front in the position I‘m in,“ he said. ”The golf course will take its effect on a bunch of people. I probably won’t try to look at the leaderboard too much.
“I’ll get a feel for how things are going score wise, but it will be more about trying to play the golf course tomorrow rather than trying to play Graeme or trying to play the guys trying to hunt us down.”
Woods will go into Sunday’s final round five strokes off the lead after battling to a third round 75, a score which Furyk felt did not accurately reflect how the 14-times major champion had played.
“From where he hit the ball, he could have got a lot more out of the round,” said Furyk, who is renowned for his loopy backswing.
”He didn’t get a lot of momentum with the putter and make a lot of putts out there, and that made it difficult to get things going. I don’t think he looked that far off. It’s just stuff happens at U.S. Opens sometimes.
“He’s come from farther back before. He’s probably already flipped the page and worried about what he needs to do to play well tomorrow.”
Furyk won his first major title by three strokes at the 2003 U.S. Open and he believes he has matured since then as a player.
“I think I’ve got a better attitude about the game and I think I’ve got a little bit more wisdom and a little more shot selection I did than back in ‘03,” he said.
”That week was my week and the course set up well for me. I was playing well. Putts were going in. I felt really good about that week.
“There are a lot more good years behind me than there are ahead of me, but I’ve still got a few more good ones and I still want to compete for championships and major championships.”
Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes in San Francisco; Editing by Julian Linden