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Ultrasound guidance is used for many surgical interventions such as biopsy and electrode insertion. We present a method to localize a thin surgical tool such as a biopsy needle or a microelectrode in a 3-D ultrasound image. The proposed method starts with thresholding and model fitting using random sample consensus for robust localization of the axis. Subsequent local optimization refines its position. Two different tool image models are presented: one is simple and fast and the second uses learned a priori information about the tool's voxel intensities and the background. Finally, the tip of the tool is localized by finding an intensity drop along the axis. The simulation study shows that our algorithm can localize the tool at nearly real-time speed, even using a MATLAB implementation, with accuracy better than 1 mm. In an experimental comparison with several alternative localization methods, our method appears to be the fastest and the most robust one. We also show the results on real 3-D ultrasound data from a PVA cryogel phantom, turkey breast, and breast biopsy.