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Furyk, Oosthuizen look to avenge major losses

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AKRON, Ohio – Scars are like roadmaps, but you never quite know where they will lead.

They can lead to slumps and ruin, or they can lead to mountain tops.

They’ve led Jim Furyk and Louis Oosthuizen to the top of the leaderboard going into Sunday’s final round of the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational.

Furyk and Oosthuizen can’t show you the scars they gained losing chances to win major championships this year, but they are there. You know they are. Furyk gained a scar failing to close out a 54-hole lead at the U.S. Open in June, Oosthuizen in losing a Masters playoff in April to Bubba Watson.

Come Sunday, those scars just might make the difference because of what they’ve inspired. Or what they’ve taught. Or in how they’ve toughened a player.

With an even-par 70 Saturday at Firestone Country Club, Furyk moved into position to claim his 17th PGA Tour title and the first wire-to-wire victory of his PGA Tour career. He’s also going for his first World Golf Championship title.

At 11-under 199, Furyk is a shot ahead Oosthuizen (68), four in front of Keegan Bradley (67) and five clear of Rory McIlroy (67) and Steve Stricker (68).

With storms forecast to roll hard into Akron Sunday, Furyk, Oosthuizen and Bradley will go off together at 10 a.m. In a bid to help complete play on Sunday, tee times were moved up, with threesomes going off the front and back nine.

Furyk, 42, has closed out final round leads 10 times in his career.

“I don't know him that well, but he is not going to go away,” said Oosthuizen, 29, a South African. “I know the weather is coming in a bit, and I think it's going to be a tough day. You’ve got to catch him.”

Back in June, Furyk looked like he was going to close out the U.S. Open to claim his second major, but he stumbled with a costly bogey at the 70th hole and didn’t recover.

“You can fade away, or you can get pissed off and work harder and try to come back stronger,” Furyk said in the aftermath.

Back in April, Oosthuizen electrified Augusta National with an albatross at the second hole in the final round of the Masters, vaulting him into the hunt; but Watson beat him in the playoff with that great escape from the trees. Oosthuizen bounced back to win the Malaysian Open a week later.

Still, replays of Watson’s giant hook to win the Masters bring back old pain.

“I don’t want to watch that shot again,” Oosthuizen said. “I’ve seen it once, that’s enough.”

The loss left its mark, though not a ruinous one.

“It was hard,” Oosthuizen said. “It was a hard few days afterwards, but once the next tournament started off, I was focused on that. It's a great thing that I went to play and didn't sit down and just think about it. Yeah, the win the next week, I took a lot out of it.”

With the winds up Saturday at Firestone, Furyk posted his high round this week with his 70. He opened with a 63 and followed it up with a 66.

“I think my ball striking from tee to green was every bit as good today and maybe even a touch better than it was Thursday or Friday,” Furyk said.

Furyk isn’t a long hitter, ranking 175th on the PGA Tour in driving distance. While Firestone plays like a big ballpark, with the long hitters bombing drives all over the track, Furyk’s managing just fine. With a helping wind, he hit his tee shot 384 yards at the 18th hole.

Oosthuizen packs a power advantage. There have been 24 drives of more than 400 yards this week at Firestone. Oosthuizen has belted one of them.

Given Sunday’s weather forecast, shot making looks like it will once again trump power.

“I’m seeing predictions of 15 to 25 tomorrow, with gusts higher,” Furyk said. “It'll be a tough day.”

Maybe a day when scars are useful.