Graeme McDowell in pole position for second US Open title in San Francisco

Graeme McDowell

Rory McIlroy is out but fellow Irishman Graeme McDowell is in contention to lift a second US Open title in three years in San Francisco on Sunday night.

Defending champion McIlroy failed to make Friday’s cut as his recent slump continued but McDowell flew the flag for Ulster with a blistering third round.

The 32-year-old ended Saturday’s play on the tough Olympic course in a share of the lead with American Jim Furyk on one-under par.

A superb 68 in the third round means 2010 champion McDowell is ideally placed to lift this famous trophy for a second time.

McDowell wooed the crowds with his clever play on Saturday and is set for more of the same in Sunday’s final round.

He told the Sunday Independent: “I expect a great atmosphere on this golf course. The crowds are fantastic, and there really is a good buzz out there.

“Today may be kind of a Sunday afternoon at Augusta, the way the cheers go around this place.

The Portrush native also praised the Irish fans adding their support in San Francisco as he battles against a top quality leaderboard that includes a lurking Tiger Woods.

McDowell added after Saturday’s round: “I’ve got great support in San Francisco. There might be more Irishmen out here than there are in Ireland.

“I had fun interacting with them today. I’ve enjoyed the buzz of it all and, importantly, it helped to keep me relaxed.”

Woods is five off the pace and Padraig Harrington a further shot back going into the final day of the second Major of the year.

“Anyone as far back as four-over has a realistic shot to win,” said McDowell.

“It’s such a tough course, there’s a really fine line between 67, 68 and shooting 75 or 76.”