Woods just ordinary, still up by 7 at Bridgestone
AKRON, Ohio (AP) — Even when Tiger Wood 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 2-under 68 on Saturday in the third round of the Bridgestone Invitational, giving him a seven-shot lead and setting him up for a remarkable eighth victory at Firestone Country Club.
Woods also could capture his 79th victory on the PGA Tour, drawing him within three of 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 a 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 still was good enough to put himself in position for yet another lopsided 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 lock that, with 14, he’ll surpass the mark of 18 by Jack Nicklaus.
Woods was at 15-under 195.
He began the 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 6 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 champ 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. Rounding out the top 10 were 2011 Bridgestone winner and reigning Masters champ Adam Scott and Zach Johnson.
Woods has overwhelmed everyone in the elite field, which includes 48 of the top 50 players in the world ranking.
Should he hold on, he still has several remarkable feats within his grasp on Sunday.
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.
He also could capture his 79th victory on the PGA Tour, drawing him within three of Snead’s record of 82.
Much like he did a day earlier, Woods started out fast. He birdied the first two holes (he had also eagled No. 2 in the second round). He rolled in a 12-footer at No. 1 and then two-putted from 40 feet at No. 2, most likely causing the rest of the players to just shake their heads.
From there, however, he proved merely human. He parred the next six holes and then drove into the sheer face of a fairway bunker and took a bogey at the ninth hole. After a birdie at the 10th — dropping his approach inside 8 feet, he picked up another shot on par at the 13th in typically dramatic fashion.
He airmailed his iron shot over the green at the par-4 hole and into heavy, grabby rough. But he got a sand wedge under the ball, popped it straight up. It landed on the green and rolled right to the pin, clanging off it and into the hole for birdie from 40 feet away.
He found bunker trouble again at the 14th hole, driving into the sand trap left of the fairway. He blasted out to the right, his ball coming to rest in deep hay near a tree root. Woods then skulled his third shot hard off the back of the green and chipped up and made the bogey putt.
Woods also made bogey at the signature 16th when he found sand again off the tee, but regained that stroke when his second at the par-4 17th ended up 8 feet away and he rolled it in.
In the second round, Woods had gotten to 9-under and needed only to go 2-under over the final five holes to shoot 59. Instead, he parred out, twice missing birdie putts inside 10 feet but also saving par with a 25-foot putt on the 18th hole.
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 10 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.”
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