There’s something about the California air that brings out the best in U.S. Open co-leader (after 54 holes) Graeme McDowell.
Not only did the 32-year-old from Northern Ireland notch his first major championship two years ago some two hours down the rocky coast at Pebble Beach, but he really kick-started his career in the southern California town of Thousand Oaks six months prior to his one-shot major win in 2010. That’s when the little-known journeyman golfer from Portrush stepped in for an injured Tiger Woods at the 2009 Chevron World Challenge, and, a year later as Open champ, took down the tourney’s host on the first hole of a sudden-death playoff.
Now, in Sunday’s finale of the 112th U.S. Open, McDowell will go head-to-head with 2003 Open champ Jim Furyk in the last twosome of what may prove to be a foggy finish at The Olympic Club in San Francisco. For sure, 2011 Open winner Rory McIlroy’s countryman looked forward to some electricity when he and Furyk teed it up at 6:10 p.m. ET --the third time the duo will play together this week.
“What do I expect from tomorrow?” McDowell asked reporters following his 2-under 68 on Saturday that brought him to 1-under and a share of the lead -- one of only two rounds under par through three rounds.
“I expect a great atmosphere on this golf course. The atmosphere is great. The crowds are fantastic, and there really is a good buzz out there.”
McDowell said the huge cheers that he anticipated to echo around the amphitheater-like track would conjure up the excitement of Masters Sunday.
“I'll expect there to be large cheers going off. Maybe kind of a Sunday afternoon at Augusta, the way the cheers go around that place. I expect it to be similar tomorrow,” said McDowell, who noted the familiarity of the ocean breezes of the Golden State.
“What is it about northern California?” McDowell wondered. “I don't know. There's something about this kind of sea air coming off the Pacific that feels a little bit like home to me.”
McDowell, who makes his U.S. residence on the other coast in Orlando, Fla., said another Open trophy could even result in a change of address.
“If this good play in northern California continues I may have to be getting a little real estate out here or something,” he said. “But it's something in the air, in this Pacific Ocean, Pebble just down the road. It's been good to me, the West Coast, and hopefully it can continue tomorrow.”