Even when Tiger Woods is just good, he’s capable of distancing himself from everyone else.
Woods followed one of the best rounds of his life with a solid two-under 68 on Saturday in the third round of the Bridgestone Invitational, giving him a seven-shot lead heading into last night’s final round and setting him up for a remarkable eighth victory at Firestone Country Club.
Woods could also capture his 79th victory on the PGA Tour, drawing him within three of am Snead’s record of 82. “I’ll just go out there and execute my game plan,” he said. “It all starts with what the weather is doing, and then I build it from there. We’ll see what I do tomorrow.”
Unlike in his second-round 61 that could easily have been a 59 or even lower, Woods didn’t recover from all of his errant shots. He bogeyed the ninth, 14th and 16th holes, failing to bounce back from mediocre shots.
“You know, today was a day that I didn’t quite have it,” said Woods, who was at 15-under 195. “But I scored. And that’s the name of the game, posting a number, and I did today. I grinded my way around that golf course.”
Yet he was still good enough to put himself in position for yet another lop-sided victory, one that will likely mark him as the player to beat next week in the PGA Championship at Oak Hill.
“Any time you can go into a major tournament or any tournament with a win under your belt, it’s nice,” Woods said. “It validates what you’re working on and you have some nice momentum going in there.”
Of course, Woods has failed to win his last 17 major championships. No longer is it a certainty that, with 14, he’ll surpass the mark of 18 by Jack Nicklaus.
Woods began his third round with a seven-shot lead after rounds of 66 and the career-best 61 – the fourth time he has gone that low, also matching the tournament record originally set by Jose Maria Olazabal in 1990.
Henrik Stenson was second after a 67. Jason Dufner was eight strokes back after a 67, and Luke Donald (68), Bill Haas (69) and Chris Wood (70) followed at six-under.
Dufner said Firestone isn’t all that unique because it is just one of a number of places where Woods dominates. “Yeah, he has a pretty good track record here,” he said. “There’s quite a few events out here that he does really well. Torrey Pines comes to mind, Bay Hill comes to mind, the Memorial. So he obviously feels comfortable on those courses, and it’s our job to try and chase him down if we can.”
Defending champion Keegan Bradley, with a 71, was another shot back along with Miguel Angel Jimenez, who put up the day’s low round with a 65.
Woods has overwhelmed everyone in the elite field, which includes 48 of the top 50 players in the world ranking. A victory would tie the PGA Tour record with his eighth at Firestone Country Club, matching the eight he already has at Bay Hill and the eight wins that Sam Snead had at the Greater Greensboro Open.
Woods has dominated World Golf Championship events since the series’ inception in 1999. He has won 17 times in 41 starts – a success rate of 41 percent – while finishing in the top ten an amazing 32 times.
At Firestone, he’s had winning streaks of four (2005-09) and three (1999-2001), and also has a tie for second and two fourth-place finishes.
Woods looked back on his round and gave it a thumbs-up. “It ended up being a dead push for the day,” he said about hanging on to the same lead he began the day with. “That’s not too bad, either.”