SAN FRANCISCO — It had been easy to lump Lee Westwood in with the two other guys in his threesome the first two days.
The difference was, he played well enough to hang around for the weekend, and he played well enough on Saturday to get into contention for his first major title.
Luke Donald and Rory McIlroy, his mates in a group composed of the top three players in the world ranking, both failed to make the cut, which gave the whole group a bad name. But Westwood, a perennial contender in golf's majors and perhaps the one on tour saddled with the unwanted "best golfer not to win a major" moniker, hung in there during the opening two rounds.
Now, he's among a host of contenders at Olympic Club as the toughest test in golf, the U.S. Open, wraps up today. On Saturday, Westwood made five birdies to shoot 3-under par 67 and finish 2 over.
Of the U.S. Open, he said, "It has no respect for who you are or what your ranking is."
He turned the tables Saturday by not getting overwrought by the occasion or anything else.
"I go out and play golf for a living on the best golf courses in the world in the biggest tournaments," said the man who has seven top-three finishes in majors. "It's not a bad way to pass time."
John Peterson, 23, had been having a bad day, playing in the thick of the action in the next-to-last group with David Toms, his fellow LSU alumnus. Peterson was 4-over par through 12 holes and going nowhere until he got to the 180-yard par 3 13th hole. He saw his ball roll in the cup for a hole-in-one and leaped for joy. That brought him back within four of the lead.
Ernie Els, who has won two U.S. Opens, but none since 1997, put himself back in the mix (2 over) with a pitch-in eagle on the par 5 17th hole.
Phil Mickelson turned 42 on Saturday and was serenaded with "Happy Birthday" on No. 18, but it wasn't the same lighthearted scene he experienced with a similar chorus at Bethpage 10 years ago. He is 8 over. … Bubba Watson will toss the ceremonial first pitch at Citi Field in New York on Monday night -- a commitment he made before he missed the cut here.