Woods upbeat about his chances

Tiger Woods is relishing being back in the hunt as he prepared for Sunday’s final round of the 110th US Open in California.

Tiger Woods is relishing being back in the hunt as he prepared for Sunday’s final round of the 110th US Open in California.
The world number one and 14-time major winner put months of indifferent form and the dismissal of swing coach Hank Haney behind him and blazed into contention at Pebble Beach Golf Links yesterday to shoot a five-under-par 66.
Woods described the round, which leaves him five shots behind 54-hole leader Dustin Johnson, as the best since tying for fourth at the Masters in April.
The 34-year-old had returned to competition at the Masters following a leave of absence prompted by the worldwide media frenzy that met a Thanksgiving night car crash last November and subsequent revelations about his marital infidelities.
The controversy was forgotten momentarily at Pebble Beach, though, as Woods blitzed the challenging back nine of the revered course with five birdies to come home in a bogey-free 31 and put himself in contention after a lacklustre opening 45 holes of the championship.
“I’ve got myself back in the tournament and I was what, 25th starting out the day, I believe,” Woods said on Saturday.
“It does feel good to play this well going into a final round and I put myself back in the tournament.
“The last time I really played that well was at Augusta and even then I was struggling there. I haven’t been in contention in a tournament since Augusta.
“I’m definitely swinging better now and I have a lot more tournaments under my belt now. Going into the Masters I just had just played for a few weeks and teed it up.
“I’ve been in a competitive environment now for a while and I’ve had the feel of being out there playing.
“I have 18 more holes and you’ve got to be ready to play.
“I’m going to have to put together another good round in order to win this.”
Also setting his sights on catching Johnson was Northern Ireland’s Graeme McDowell, who let slip his two-shot 36-hole lead after his level-par 71 was eclipsed by the American’s 66 and trailed the leader by three strokes.
McDowell, 30, believes his cause would be helped by the windier conditions that have been forecast for the Monterey Peninsula on the Pacific Ocean coast today.
“I’m a decent wind player, I grew up on the coast up on the northern coast of Ireland and I’m pretty familiar with some windy conditions and I think I’ll be a great test,” McDowell said.
“I hope it blows, I think it will really separate the men from the boys.
“Where else would you rather be on a Sunday afternoon but the last group in a major at Pebble Beach.
“So bring it on, I’m looking forward to it.”
As McDowell chases his first major championship victory, his European Ryder Cup team-mates Padraig Harrington and Luke Donald said they believed the Portrush man had the temperament and approach to the game to be a success and land one of golf’s biggest prizes.
Englishman Donald backed McDowell’s mental strength to hold firm in the most testing of conditions on the final day.
“He’s going to have to make sure he doesn’t get ahead of himself, try not to look at leaderboards, play his own game and not worry about what the others are doing around him he said.
“He’s strong mentally and has a good game and plenty of confidence.”
Three-time major winner Harrington, the last European to win a major when claimed the 2008 USPGA title at Oakland Hills, added: “It may be new to Graeme. Usually you have to get yourself in this position a few times, but Graeme has always been a good front runner and I think that will stand him in good stead.
“He’s playing well and feeling good about his game. He’s got to do this thing and I can certainly see him performing.”