Goose Chase at Pinehurst No 2

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PINEHURST, N.C. -- Defending champion Retief Goosen overcame a terrible stretch on the back nine with three birdies in his final five holes Saturday to shoot a one-under 69 and take a three-shot lead at the 105th U.S. Open Championship. Goosen is the only player under par through three rounds, as he stands at three-under-par 207 at Pinehurst No. 2.
 
Jason Gore, the Nationwide Tour player who got into the field through local and sectional qualifying, birdied the last to shoot an even-par 70. He is tied for second place with Olin Browne, who also posted a 70, at even-par 210.
 
Retief Goosen
Retief Goosen has his sights set on winning his third U.S. Open in the last five years.
Tiger Woods, a two-time U.S. Open winner and reigning Masters champion, carded a two-over 72 and is part of a group tied for seventh place at plus-three.
 
Woods is six back in his pursuit for a third U.S. Open title. He knows he still has a chance, but it will take an extraordinary effort and some help from Goosen.
 
'We've seen it at Carnoustie where Paul Lawrie came from ten back,' said Woods, referring to the 1999 British Open. 'Anybody who's at five-, six-, seven-over par, you shoot a good quality round tomorrow, you don't know what can happen.'
 
The problem will be catching Goosen.
 
He has already won this test of golfing patience twice and is difficult to catch with a lead. Since his win at Southern Hills in 2001, Goosen has held the 54-hole advantage 11 times on both the PGA Tour and European Tour. He has won nine times, including both his U.S. Opens.
 
The South African was tied for the lead at the start of the round with Browne and Gore, and Goosen assumed the top spot with a birdie at four. He shared the lead throughout most of the front nine with Gore, but both found problems early on the back nine.
 
Goosen's trouble began at the par-four 12th. His drive hit a spectator in the foot, then his second missed the green on the left. Goosen's chip failed to reach the top of one of Pinehurst's numerous sloped greens, and Goosen missed his 20-footer for par.
 
Things got worse quickly for the fifth-ranked player in the world as his drive at 13 landed in thick rough. He chopped his second over the green, which left him a dangerous downhill chip. Goosen could do no better than chip his third off the other side of the green, then his fourth came up 15 feet short and could have rolled back to his feet. Goosen missed that putt and left with a double-bogey.
 
Goosen dropped to even par for the championship and that left Gore with a one- shot lead. That was short-lived because Gore was making a mess of the 14th.
 
Gore drove into the right rough and was forced to pitch back into the fairway. His third landed long and right, then he pitched 40 feet past the hole. Gore missed the long bogey save and walked away with a double-bogey, falling to one-over for the tournament.
 
Goosen was back in the lead with Mark Hensby, but the defending champ quickly took back first. His drive at 14 landed in a fairway bunker, but he hit his approach 30 feet left of the hole. Goosen sank the long birdie putt to move ahead by one at minus-one.
 
At the par-three 15th, Goosen took a risk and went at the pin located on the left side of the green. His six-iron came to rest eight feet from the hole and he converted the birdie try to move two ahead.
 
Goosen had a reasonable look at birdie at 16, but made par. At the par-three 17th, his seven-iron tee ball stopped six feet from the hole, but Goosen missed.
 
On the closing hole, Goosen missed the fairway again and his second landed left of the green. Goosen holed the putt from off the surface to extend the margin to three.
 
'I had a good finish, which was nice,' said Goosen, who only hit six fairways on Saturday. 'If I play pretty solid tomorrow, I suppose I have a good chance. It's not easy to make up ground on this course. It's easy to lose ground.'
 
If Goosen makes it to the winner's circle on Sunday, he will become the first player since Curtis Strange in 1988-89 to win back-to-back titles. He could also join an elite club of five who have more than two U.S. Open titles.
 
'It really all depends on what I do tomorrow,' said Goosen. 'I felt pretty good out there today. I felt more relaxed today, than I did yesterday. I felt a little too relaxed in the middle of the round, but coming down the stretch, I played well.'
 
Gore was one-over on his round before the debacle at 14. He steadied himself over the next three holes, but drained an 18-foot birdie putt at the last to put him in Sunday's final pairing of his second U.S. Open.
 
'I've come this far, who knows?,' said Gore, who is becoming a crowd favorite this week. 'It's still golf. I'll take it one at a time and if they invite me out to the 18th green and hand me a large piece of silver, that will be pretty special.'
 
Browne, who fired a 59 in sectional qualifying to get here, had only one highlight on his front nine. He ran home a 45-foot birdie putt at the sixth, a hole that cost him the lead on Friday thanks to a double-bogey.
 
Browne fell down the leaderboard with five bogeys through his first 14 holes. But at the 15th, Browne rolled in a six-footer for birdie. He added another birdie at 17 to get into a share of second.
 
Michael Campbell holed out for birdie from a bunker at the 17th on Saturday. He shot a one-over 71 and is tied for fourth place with Hensby, who posted a two-over 72. The duo is knotted at one-over-par 211.
 
David Toms managed an even-par 70 in round three and is alone in sixth at plus-two.
 
Woods was joined in seventh by Peter Hedblom (70), Lee Westwood (73) and K.J. Choi (74).
 
Peter Jacobsen, in the field because he won last year's U.S. Senior Open, aced the ninth hole en route to the only other under-par round besides Goosen's on Saturday. Jacobsen shot a 69 and is part of a group in 11th, which includes Vijay Singh.

Related links:
  • Leaderboard - 105th U.S. Open
  • Full Coverage - 105th U.S. Open