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Ben Margot/AP/Press Association Images Graeme McDowell shakes hands with shakes hands with Nicolas Colsaerts after the third round.
US Open: Leaders have nothing but respect for one another
McDowell described Furyk style as ‘plodding’, but ensured it was not taken as an insult.

JIM FURYK WON’T get caught up in even a friendly duel with Graeme McDowell in the final round of the US Open, knowing his biggest foe will be the Olympic Club course itself.

Over three rounds Olympic’s Lake Course has pummelled the world’s best golfers. Only Furyk and McDowell head into the final round under par, sharing the lead on one-under 209, with Sweden’s Fredrik Jacobson two strokes back.

“I like Graeme a lot,” said Furyk, the 2003 US Open champion who was paired with 2010 winner McDowell in the first two rounds here. “I have a lot of respect for him and his game. I enjoy playing golf with him. I think it’s a great pair for tomorrow.”

In fact, the two sounded like a mutual admiration society, with Furyk welcoming McDowell’s verdict that the American’s “plodding” style was just what a US Open required.

“He actually saw me in the locker room and said, ‘I don’t know what they told you in the press room, but I meant everything as a compliment and I didn’t want it to come across the wrong way,’” Furyk said.

Furyk soothed McDowell’s fears and “joked with him that I said some nice stuff about him — but if I needed to retract it I could always go back.”

In fact, Furyk knew just what McDowell meant – and that McDowell’s an excellent plodder, too.

“On a golf course like this, you have to go from spot to spot and it doesn’t have to look or be fancy. It has to work. I think we have styles of games where we put the ball into play, we put the ball on the green and take our chance at the putt and then move on.”

Furyk expected their friendly relations to make for a relaxed pairing on Sunday, but the exacting nature of the course and the prize at stake meant there would be little time for any sort of socializing.

The 42-year-old veteran got plenty of practice keeping his focus when he played in the final group with Tiger Woods on Saturday.

The two started the day in a three-way tie for the lead with David Toms. Woods slipped back with a five-over 75, to the dismay of his legion of fans.

“You can really get caught up in playing with him just from the amount of media, from the amount of attention, cameras,” Furyk said. He had to lay it up on one and the crowd is yelling, ‘Take advantage of it, Jimmy. Try to get ahead of him.’

“And you have to realize that I wasn’t playing Tiger Woods. I was playing against the golf course trying to fire a number. It’s hard to talk yourself into.”

However, he’ll take the same approach in the final round, knowing with 11 players within four shots of the lead a challenge well could come from outside the final group.

“I expect it to get faster and the greens to be maybe a touch quicker,” Furyk said. “Graeme and I are tied for the lead, but there’s a bunch of people piled up and close to it. I probably won’t try to look at the leaderboard too much … 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.”

- © AFP, 2012

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