Open ending turns bitter for Graeme McDowell, Jim Furyk

Third-round co-leaders falter with U.S. Open on the line

SAN FRANCISCO — Graeme McDowell's manager scanned the dreary conditions on the practice range and observed, "What's going on here, this fog coming across, it looks like home."

McDowell also felt at home, or so it seemed.

The Northern Ireland native strolled to his practice stall — seven down from Jim Furyk — 35 minutes before his U.S. Open tee time. He was met by ESPN's Chris Berman, wearing shades and a Panama hat.

They chatted, and McDowell left him with these words: "If it goes great, we'll be there. If it doesn't go great, we'll be there."

His hangout all week — and where manager Conor Ridge said they would end up Sunday night — was Johnny Foley's, an Irish pub in the heart of downtown San Francisco.

But those beers tasted bitter after McDowell's experience Sunday. His birdie bid from 24 feet to force a playoff with Webb Simpson missed left.

"That putt, it was weird," he said, "because I hit that putt in practice and it … moved right of the hole. It just didn't do that today."

Furyk, meanwhile, stumbled on the final three holes. It was a surprising turn of events for both Furyk and McDowell, whose strategy was to play "Jim Furyk golf."

Said McDowell: "He doesn't take chances he doesn't have to take on. He gets it back in the fairway. He putts well. Holes out well. And that's my type of golf as well."

It's noteworthy, then, that Furyk was done in by taking an unnecessary risk. He stepped to the 16th tee tied for the lead. The USGA teased players by moving up the tees from 670 yards to 569, a reachable par-5 distance.

But right-handers such as Furyk needed to hit a strong draw to find the fairway. Instead he duck-hooked his tee shot, leading to a bogey 6 that left him 2 over.

"To get to a tee that is 100 yards up and the fairway makes a complete 'L' turn, I was unprepared and didn't know exactly where to hit the ball," Furyk said. "And I took a little bit more of an aggressive route with that 3 wood."

Furyk needed a birdie on the 18th to force a playoff, but despite hitting a perfect tee shot, he pulled his approach into the left bunker. He reacted by resting his wedge in his teeth, knowing he was all but certain to remain stuck on one major victory ('03 Open).

"I let one slide today," he said. "It's very disappointing."

McDowell gave off terrific vibes as his tee time neared. He hit a few putts and made eye contact with a young fan holding a flag for him to sign.

"Gotta run, buddy," he told him, "I'll get you after the round."

McDowell then walked on a bridge to the first tee, praising NBC's cameraman for his ability to shoot while walking backward.

A fan in a Union Jack ski cap — apparently the same one who crashed Simpson's victory interview on the 18th green — shouted, "McDowell, you can do it, lad!"

McDowell tipped his cap and waved.

Then he took out his driver, teed his ball low and split the first fairway. Who could have imagined that would be the highlight of his birdie-free front nine?

"There's a mixture of emotions inside me," he said. "Obviously disappointment, deflation, pride. But mostly frustration because I hit (only) three fairways. It's the U.S. Open. You're not supposed to do that."

tgreenstein@tribune.com
CHICAGO

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