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McDowell opens with 2 birdies, Mickelson struggles
McDowell US OPEN
Graeme McDowell of Northern Ireland hits around a tree on the first hole during the third round of the U.S. Open golf tournament Saturday, June 19, 2010, at the Pebble Beach Golf Links in Pebble Beach, Calif. - photo by Associated Press

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. — Graeme McDowell opened the day looking like someone who knows how to win the U.S. Open.

Phil Mickelson opened the day looking like someone who has lost it a lot.

In search of his first major victory, McDowell started the third round with a pair of birdies Saturday to extend his lead to four strokes early on a windblown Pebble Beach course that was only playing easy for those who were playing well.

Trying to win his first U.S. Open after a record five second-place finishes, Mickelson started with two bogeys that dropped him to 1-over par, and suddenly six shots back of McDowell.

Ernie Els and Ryo Ishikawa, who began the day tied with Mickelson for second, each bogeyed to start the day, leaving Dustin Johnson, who opened with two pars, alone in second place.

Tiger Woods made four birdies and three bogeys to move to 3 over through 11 holes.

With the leaders on the course, it was sunny and 61 degrees with gusts up to 20 mph at Pebble Beach — possibly treacherous conditions even though there were some good scores early.

Davis Love III, a two-time winner of the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, went out in 5-under 30 en route to a 3-under 68 that left him at 4-over 217 for the tournament.

Tom Watson, the 60-year-old playing his fifth U.S. Open at Pebble Beach, also got in on the act until missing short putts over the final couple of holes. Watson still managed a 1-under 70 to complete three rounds in 6-over 219.

Watson warned that the greens, which he said makes a player feel like he's "putting over a heard of turtles," would get more difficult as the wind dried the course out in the afternoon.

"The backs of those turtles get higher and higher, and the winds will come up and it will dry out the lower parts of these greens," he said. "It will get more bumpy. It's always been the case here."

Woods called the greens "awful" after his opening round Thursday, then drew some criticism from the USGA before he headed to the course for the third round.

"As far as the greens are concerned, he's wrong," USGA executive director David Fay said. "That old statement that you're entitled to your opinion? He is entitled to his opinion, but he's off on his facts. These putting surfaces have never been better."

Woods' biggest problem early didn't have so much to do with putting. After driving the ball to 40 yards from the green on the par-4 third, he tried a flop shot from a tight lie to the back, right pin location and knocked it over the green. His chip rolled to 10 feet past the hole and he missed for his second straight bogey.

But he took advantage of No. 4, where the tee box has been moved to only 284 yards from the hole to make it drivable. Woods' tee shot landed just short of the green and after a chip and a putt, he had the first of three straight birdies. He had a 15-foot putt for eagle on No. 6 that barely missed.

Also taking advantage of the easier layout was Thongchai Jaidee of Thailand, who aced the 181-yard, fifth hole — the first hole-in-one at the U.S. Open since 2006.

The famous par-3 seventh hole was playing at 99 yards — a lob wedge for almost everyone. Ian Poulter, at even par through six holes, hit his shot into the left rough and was picked up on the TV mike saying, "How on earth are you supposed to play to that?"

While the USGA was moving up tee boxes, it was not as liberal in watering the course overnight, and the wind was gusting up to 20 mph, which could dry the course and make things progressively more difficult for the afternoon and evening rounds.

AP Golf Writer Doug Ferguson contributed to this report.