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McDowell took care of that with a late surge, starting with birdies on the 13th and 14th holes, and a 15-foot birdie putt on the 17th.
"I kind of felt the tournament perhaps slipping away from me a little bit and really had to dig deep for some patience," McDowell said. "From about the 14th tee onwards, it’s probably about as good as I’ve swung the club all week."
Snedeker’s bogey-free streak — the longest to start a major championship since at least 1995 — ended with a three-putt from just short of the fifth green, and it spiraled from there. With his ball a foot away from a 4-foot bunker wall, he played back toward the fairway and hit a superb pitch from 40 yards to escape with bogey on the sixth. After that, nothing went his way until the end of the round.
He will be in the penultimate group with Woods, who has rallied to win from five shots behind — but never in a major. It probably would help for the wind to arrive, although Woods is skeptical about the forecast. Perhaps his best chance is for Scott to struggle with his nerves while going for his first major.
"He’s been out here a long time," said Woods, who once shared a coach (Butch Harmon) with Scott. "And he’s won a Players Championship. I don’t think he’s really done probably as well as he’d like to in major championships. But I think that he’s maturing in his game, and I think over the last year or so he’s really improved his game."
Luke Donald and Lee Westwood will have to wait to try to win their first major. Donald, the No. 1 player in the world, had a 71 and was 10 shots behind. Westwood played early with Tom Watson and had a 71 to fall 15 shots behind.
It’s all down to Scott, who turned pro a dozen years ago and was billed as the young Australian who swung the club like Woods. This is his best chance, poised to become the first Aussie since Greg Norman in 1993 to get his name on the claret jug.
But this has been a tough year for 54-hole leaders. Five players have rallied from deficits of at least six shots this year to win, a peculiar trend that Snedeker started at Torrey Pines in January.
"A four-shot lead doesn’t seem to be very much this year on any golf tournament that I’ve watched," Scott said. "That doesn’t mean a lot. The good part is if I play a solid round of golf tomorrow, it will be very hard for the others to beat me, and that’s all I’m thinking about."
It’s best that he not think about how his fellow Aussies have fared. Scott is the fourth Australian to have a 54-hole lead in a major dating to the 2007 Masters. None of the other three — Stuart Appleby, Aaron Baddeley and Norman — left with the trophy.
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