Tiger builds a 6-shot lead at Torrey Pines
Tiger Woods just made it look as if it was over.
Hands thrust in the pockets of his rain pants, Woods walked off Torrey Pines in the chill of twilight with a six-shot lead and only 11 more holes standing in the way of winning on the public course along the Pacific Ocean for the eighth time in his pro career.
He drove the ball with superb control in the third round on his way to a 3-under 69 to build a four-shot lead after three rounds. He lost control with his driver in the fourth round and still managed three birdies in seven holes.
"All we can do tomorrow is go out and try to make him think about it a little bit and see what happens," said Nick Watney, one of two former winners at Torrey Pines who faced the tough task of trying to make up six shots on Woods.
The other was defending champion Brandt Snedeker.
"I've got a guy at the top of the leaderboard that doesn't like giving up leads," Snedeker said. "So I have to go catch him."
Woods was at 17-under par for the tournament and will resume his round on the par-3 eighth hole. CBS Sports wants to televise the Monday finish — no surprise with Woods in the lead — so play won't start until 2 p.m. EST.
Snedeker played 13 holes of the final round. Watney played eight holes. Both were at 11-under par.
Woods played 25 holes. He started with a two-shot lead and tripled it before darkness suspended the final round.
"It was a long day ... and I played well today," Woods said. "Overall, I'm very pleased that I was able to build on my lead."
Thick fog washed out all of Saturday, forcing players to go from sunrise to sunset Sunday. They finished the third round, took about 30 minutes for lunch and went right back onto the golf course.
Woods finished 54 holes at 14-under 202 and was four shots ahead of Canadian rookie Brad Fritsch. It was the 16th time in his PGA Tour career that Woods had a 54-hole lead of at least four shots.
If that wasn't enough to make the outcome look inevitable, everything was going his way in the final hour.
His tee shot was so far left on No. 2 that the ball finished in the first cut of rough in the sixth fairway. He still saved par. Woods made a birdie putt of about 10 feet on No. 3, and then wound up well right of the cart path and blocked by a tree on the fourth hole. He carved a punch shot around the tree, safely in front of the green, and his chip banged into the pin and dropped for birdie.
Two holes later, from a mangled lie in the right rough, he smashed a 5-wood that ran onto the green and set up a two-putt birdie.
Snedeker was seven shots behind after three rounds, the same deficit he faced a year ago. Only now he's trying to chase down Woods, already a seven-time winner at Torrey Pines with a daunting record from in front. Woods is 38-2 on the PGA Tour when he has the outright lead going into the last round.
"I've got to make some more birdies," Snedeker said. "I've got a long way to go. I did a great job today of staying patient and playing good golf."
Woods didn't bother wearing red Sunday, knowing the tournament wouldn't end until the next day.
In some respects, though, it had the feeling of being over. Fritsch birdied the last hole of the third round for a 70 to finish on 206. Erik Compton finished birdie-eagle for a 71 and was alone in third through 54 holes, five shots behind. When someone asked him about chasing Woods, Compton started laughing.
"I'm trying to chase myself," he said.
Woods has won seven times at Torrey Pines as a pro, including a U.S. Open, and another win Monday would give him the most wins on any course. He also has seven wins at Bay Hill and Firestone. Sam Snead won the Greater Greensboro Open eight times, but only four times on one course.
Woods attributed his lead to "the whole package."
"I've driven the ball well, I've hit my irons well, and I've chipped and putted well," he said. "Well, I've hit good putts. They all haven't gone in."
Woods had superb control of his tee shots and was rarely out of position on a day that began under a light drizzle and soon gave way to patchy clouds and clear views of the Pacific surf below the bluffs.
Starting with a two-shot lead, he stretched that quickly with a tap-in birdie on the second hole and a beautiful tee shot to a left pin on the downhill par 3 to about 4 feet. The South Course played even longer with the soft conditions, and only seven players broke 70. Aaron Baddeley had the lowest score of the round with a 68.
Woods managed to stretch his lead with pars, though he was always on the attack because of his position in the fairway.
He missed a downhill birdie putt from 4 feet on the par-5 ninth, and then came back with a wedge that landed near the hole at No. 10 and spun back next to the cup before it settled 4 feet away for a birdie putt that he made.
He led by as many as six strokes in the third round until Fritsch birdied the last hole and Woods, playing in the group behind, ran into trouble. His tee shot rolled up near the lip of the bunker, and he advanced it 70 yards into deep rough. He swung hard through the thick, wet grass into a greenside bunker, and then missed his 8-foot par putt.
Still, it was an ominous sign.
One week after he missed the cut in Abu Dhabi — thanks to a two-shot penalty he received after his round for taking relief from an embedded lie on the fifth hole when the rules didn't allow for it — he looked as good as ever.
"As I said, I didn't play that poorly," Woods said of his short week in the Middle East. "I played well enough to be there on the weekend, and could have gotten two more rounds competitively, but I didn't really play poorly. I thought I did a lot of good things. Just wanted to continue that this week, and I have."
Woods has a 49-4 record on the PGA Tour when he has at least a share of the 54-hole lead, and it's even more daunting when the lead is his alone. The only two players to come from behind to beat him over the final 18 holes were Ed Fiori in the Quad City Classic in 1996 when Woods was a 20-year-old rookie, and Y.E. Yang in the 2009 PGA Championship a Hazeltine.
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