Tiger toils at US Open, five off the pace

Has never come from behind after 54 holes to win Major

Very little went right for Tiger Woods during Saturday's third round at the U.S. Open as he fell out of a tie for the lead to end a frustrating day at the Olympic Club five strokes off the pace.

In pursuit of his first Major victory in four years, three-times champion Woods struggled with his putting, often found himself in between clubs for approach shots and repeatedly missed fairways off the tee by very slight margins.

The former world number one, who had been joint top overnight with fellow Americans Jim Furyk and David Toms, piled up six bogeys and just one birdie for a five-over-par 75 to finish at four-over 214 in a tie for 14th.

As Woods made his way up the hill to the Spanish-style clubhouse to sign his card, he bumped his hand into a photographer's camera but later said that his wrist was "fine".

After speaking to reporters, the 14-times champion immediately headed off to the practice putting green to work on his short game.

"I struggled on the greens today, quite a bit," Woods said after being outscored by his playing partner Furyk by five shots. "They looked quick, but they putted slow.

"But they were firmer than they were yesterday so it was a tough feel for me to adjust. And it was just one of those days where I was right in between clubs on about every single shot.

"I just never quite had the right number."

Woods, who wore a lime green shirt for the third round, has never come from behind after 54 holes to win a Major.

Making his task even more difficult is the number of experienced players ahead of him going into Sunday's final round, including former major winners Furyk, Graeme McDowell, the two co-leaders, and Ernie Els.

"I'm just going to have to shoot a good round tomorrow, post early and see what happens," said Woods, who clinched the most recent of his Majors at the 2008 US Open.

"There's going to be a bunch of guys there with a chance, but it all depends on what they do with the golf course tomorrow.

"They made a few changes today. They watered the greens and they gave us a few really difficult pins out there, but also a few very accessible pins. You got to take advantage of those when you have them."

Woods set the tone for a frustrating day when he found the left rough off the tee at the tricky par-four first on the way to an opening bogey.

He also dropped shots at the third, sixth and eighth, where he three-putted, and was never able to recover.

"I'm definitely still in the ball game," Woods said of his position going into the final round. "I'm only five back and that's certainly doable on this golf course for sure.

"It's just patience, it's just a few birdies here and there. It's not like where you have to go out there and shoot 62 and 63. This is a US Open. You just need to hang around.

"First you need to get off to a good start. Get through the first six (holes), because anything can happen at the last three holes."

Tiger Woods in the hunt at US Open

Tiger Woods charged into a share of the lead in the second round of the US Open on Friday as Rory McIlroy's title defence collapsed on another brutal day at the Olympic Club.

Woods had the galleries buzzing with anticipation that his major championship drought was about to end as he conjured up all his old magic to tame the notoriously difficult course and join Jim Furyk and David Toms in a three-way tie for the lead at one-under par 139.

The former world number one has not won a Major in four years but the omens are good this time. Of the nine previous times Woods has led a major at the halfway state, he has gone on to win eight.

"Being patient is certainly something that we have to do in major championships and I think I've done a pretty good job of that over the years," said the 14-times Major winner.

"I won my fair share, and I understand how to do it."

It was not an easy day for Woods. The 36-year-old stumbled midway through his round, making three successive bogeys on the front nine, and had to scramble hard as the Pacific Ocean winds picked up in the afternoon.

But he maintained his composure to finish with an even par 70 after Furyk, the 2003 US Open champion, set the standard with a 69 and Toms, the 2001 PGA Championship winner, matched Woods with a 70 as the sun started to set in Northern California.

"I'm sure they (spectators) will be going crazy for Tiger out there this weekend and rightfully so. He brings a lot to our game," said Toms.

"I'm excited about it and I don't mind flying under the radar at all."

Four players, 2010 US Open champion Graeme McDowell, overnight leader Michael Thompson, American John Peterson and Nicolas Colsaerts of Belgium, were a further stroke back at one over on a packed leaderboard.

A total of 25 players, including Major winners Ernie Els, Padraig Harrington and Charl Schwartzel, finished within five shots of the leaders and are poised to challenge over the weekend.

"I think a lot of guys are pretty scared of it, I don't get that feeling," said Schwartzel, who birdied his final four holes to win last year's Masters. "I got 36 holes left and I feel I have a very good chance."

There were also plenty of high-profile casualties that missed the cut at eight over, including McIlroy, Masters champion Bubba Watson and world number one Luke Donald.

McIlroy three-putted the last to finish at 10 under after missing a birdie putt that would have got him into the weekend, in stark contrast to 12 months ago when the Northern Irishman romped to victory at Congressional with a record total of 16 under.

"To be honest, overall I don't feel like I played that badly for the last two days," McIlroy said.

"It's just such a demanding golf course and just punishes the slightest shot that's off line or that's maybe not the right distance or whatever."

Watson missed the cut by a shot after a 71, hitting his final approach into a bunker then getting up and down for par when he needed a birdie.

Donald, playing in the same group as McIlroy, finished at 11 over. The Englishman shot a respectable 72 but blew his chances on the first day when he signed for a 79.

"It wasn't to be," said Donald, who is yet to win a Major. "I'm trying to learn from it and come back stronger next time."

While most of the top professionals struggled to survive, Furyk showed why he is looming as a serious threat to Woods as he calmly plotted his way around the layout, undaunted by the tight fairways, thick rough and slick greens.

"I guess you have to realise at the US Open that par is a really good score and you're going to make some bogeys," the 42-year-old said.

"And when I'm patient, when I'm playing well, I've had some success here."

McDowell carded a 72, although it could have been much better. The Northern Irishman made three late bogeys after getting to two under but was thrilled just to be in the hunt.

"To be honest with you, if you had offered me one over par starting on the first tee yesterday," he said. "I would have probably snapped your arm off for it."

 

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