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In the 14 majors he has won, Woods was never worse than par in the pivotal third round and had a scoring average of 68.3. There was no way that was going to hold up on a course like Olympic, though Woods was expecting better than what he delivered on this Saturday.

He missed the first fairway, came up short of the third green and wound up with three bogeys through six holes.

“I don’t think he looked that far off,” Furyk said. “It’s just stuff happens at U.S. Opens sometimes.

Woods wasn’t alone in making mistakes. David Toms, tied for the second-round lead with Furyk and Woods at 1 under, played that rugged six-hole stretch in 5 over and fell six shots behind with a 76.

Even with the USGA watering the course Friday night and Saturday morning, Olympic was as relentless as ever.

But it wasn’t impossible.

Westwood showed that, as did Els, who called it as easy as the course played all week.

Kevin Chappell, who tied for third last year on a soft Congressional course that yielded a record score, had a 68 and takes an unthinkable streak of 24 holes without a bogey into the final round. He was at 3-over 213, along with Webb Simpson, who also had a 68.

Asked if the experience at Congressional would help, Chappell gave an apt description of what awaits Sunday.

“Last year we were trying to make birdies in the U.S. Open,” he said. “And here, you’re just trying to survive.”

Westwood came in right behind Chappell, and while he failed to take advantage on the par 5s, he finished in style with a 40-foot birdie putt on the 18th for a 67. Westwood began this week as the third wheel in a powerful threesome of the top players in the world ranking. Luke Donald, the world No. 1, and defending champion Rory McIlroy have gone home. Westwood now has another chance to pick up his first major.

He twice has missed a playoff by one shot, in the 2008 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines and the 2009 British Open at Turnberry. He twice as been runner-up in the majors.

A win on Sunday would end that heartache, and return him to No. 1 in the world.

“I think I’ve probably been in contention in major championships more than anybody else over the last three or four years,” Westwood said. “So I’m looking forward to tomorrow and hopefully go out and have some fun and see what happens.”