Tiger Woods fired one of the greatest rounds of his career, a seven-under par 63 that missed by an eyelash being the lowest round in major history, to grab the lead on Friday at the PGA Championship.
Woods lipped out a horseshoe heart-breaker on a 5m birdie putt on the 18th hole to miss setting a record-low majors round, instead becoming the 21st man to shoot 63 in a major and settling for a two-stroke lead after 36 holes.
"I thought I made it," Woods said. "It would have been nice to have the record and have a three-shot lead. The good thing is, I hit a good putt."
"I guess sixty-two-and-a-half is a nice record," he said.
The 18th hole at Southern Hills Country Club, rebuilt since infamously inflicting multi-putt mayhem on last-round leaders at the 2001 US Open, had surrendered only eight birdies in two days.
Woods, whose round was his lowest 18-hole score in a major, was denied his ninth birdie of the day and another epic milestone in his fabled career, but only after an agonizing tease.
"I thought it had gone in. I put the right touch on it but it didn't go," Woods said.
"I hit it a little firm," he said. "I know it broke a lot more at the end than at the beginning and it was diving. It just didn't want to go in."
Defending champion Woods dropped his putter and turned around after watching the tension-packed putt roll left-to-right around the far rim of the cup and back at him, leaving him a tap-in to finish.
"I felt all day I was in control of my shots," Woods said. "The hard part was trying to make some of the putts because the greens were not smooth."
Woods' previous low in a major had been the 64 he fired in the third round of the 1997 British Open at Royal Troon. His career low in any PGA event is a 61, which he has achieved three times.
"You just have to keep plugging along, one shot at a time," Woods said. "It was not easy out there."
After a first-round 71 on Thursday, Woods finished 36 holes with a six-under par 134 to grab a two-stroke lead over US player Scott Verplank with Canada's Stephen Ames and Australian Geoff Ogilvy at 137.
Woods, a 12-time major champion chasing Jack Nicklaus' career record of 18 major victories, took a valuable step toward making this event his 13th major victory.
Winners of all six prior major tournaments at Southern Hills led after 36 holes.
In addition, Woods is 7-0 in majors after leading through 36 holes and also perfect in majors when ahead after 54 holes.
"Certainly does give you confidence," Woods said. "I know what to do. It's just a matter of going out there and doing it."
World No. 1 Woods matched the Southern Hills course record of 63 that was set by Raymond Floyd in the first round of the 1982 PGA Championship.
Woods' round was the 23rd 63 in majors history. Vijay Singh and Greg Norman have shot 63 twice.
Woods began with a birdie, added another with a 6m putt at the fourth and recovered from a tee shot into a bunker at the par-5 fifth by dropping his approach 2.5m from the cup and sinking it for a birdie.
After carding back-to-back birdies at nine and 10, Woods followed with a pair of pars, salvaging one at the par-3 12th on an 11m putt after finding a bunker.
"The putt on 12 was huge," Woods said.
Woods then birdied three holes in a row, starting with the par-5 13th. He chipped in for a birdie on the par-3 14th to grab the lead, then sank a 6m birdie putt at the 15th to seize the lead.