GRAEME MCDOWELL, A second US Open title in as many years in his sights on California’s northern coast, is not surprisingly feeling right at home on the shores of the Pacific.
“There’s something about this sea air coming off the Pacific that feels a little bit like home to me,” said McDowell, who hails from Northern Ireland.
In 2010, down the coast a way at Pebble Beach, he became the first European since England’s Tony Jacklin in 1970 to win the US Open — coming from three shots off the lead after 54 holes to seize the victory.
He goes into Sunday’s final round on the Lake Course at San Francisco’s Olympic Club sharing the lead with 2003 champion Jim Furyk on one-under par 209.
They were two shots in front of Sweden’s Fredrik Jacobson, but with 10 more players within four shots of the lead, McDowell was predicting a frantic finish — much as he emerged from two years ago.
As at Pebble Beach, McDowell said he felt daunted by the task that faced him the third round. A talk with his caddie and others on his team “put it in perspective,” he said.
“I remember two years ago at Pebble, Saturday being a really difficult day for me mentally and emotionally,” he said. “And today was the same way. As I was getting ready to come to the golf course today I felt a little nervous and anxious and really kind of not sure how the day was going to go.”
In the end, it went great.
McDowell opened his round with an impressive run of eight straight pars — defying the danger of Olympic’s opening six holes.
His only bogey of the day came at the par-four ninth, where he said his wayward tee shot served as “a wake up call”.
“I had a big flare in the right trees there and made a bit of a Tarzan five,” he said.
“I needed to slow my swing down and get a good groove and rhythm to come. I had some good shots coming in,” added McDowell, who played the back nine in three-under and finished with a flourish — a birdie at 18.
While McDowell said the tightly bunched field — and a co-leader of Furyk’s stature — made for a wide Open final round, said he was comfortable sleeping in the 54-hole lead.
“I feel good right now,” he said. “I feel great. My mindset is myself and Jimmy are tied up, but there’s a lot of guys can still win this tournament.”
If it turns out to be him, McDowell said, he might just have to start spending even more time in Northern California.
“If this good play in Northern California continues, I may have to be getting a little real estate out here or something,” he said.