Tiger Woods overcame some crooked shots with a few clutch putts, none bigger than a 35-footer for par on the 14th hole when Jim Furyk was poised to turn the final US golf tournament of the year into a two-man race.
Four holes later, it was a one-man show again.
Furyk dumped his next tee shot into the water to take double bogey, Woods finished off his round with a birdie, and the tournament host and defending champion found himself six shots clear going into the final round.
"Those two holes there were the difference," Woods said.
Woods, who is at 18-under (198), missed breaking the tournament's 54-hole record by one shot.
Furyk didn't play poorly except for his 6-iron on the 15th that he said "barely hit the grooves." He wound up with a 69 and earned another date with Woods in the final round yesterday.
Masters champion Zach Johnson played bogey-free but had only three birdies on another glorious day in the Santa Monica mountains, with his 69 leaving him seven shots behind.
Johnson was asked how far behind was too far.
"What's Tiger at -- 18 under? What am I, 11? That's too far," he said. "Part of it is who's in front of you. It shouldn't be part of it, but when it comes to one individual, that's part of it."
Woods has never lost a tournament in 11 years as a pro when leading by more than one shot going into the last round. And he already is a three-time champion at Sherwood Country Club.
Woods was asked what advice he would give someone trying to make up a six-shot deficit.
"Make a lot of birdies," he said.
Woods made them seven of them, but the bigger shots were for par. Starting the round with a four-shot lead, he kept his margin with an imaginative pitch from about 30 yards short of the 10th green, hooding his sand wedge for the ball to skip up the slope of the green and stop 2 feet away for birdie.
But on each of the next four holes, Furyk looked as though he would pick up a shot.
Woods hit his drive well to the right on the par-5 11th, so severely blocked by trees that he pitched out nearly sideways, and he wound up holing an 18-foot putt to match birdies with Furyk. On the next hole, Woods got up-and-down from a bunker while Furyk missed a bending birdie putt from 8 feet.
The big blow came on the 14th.
Woods found a huge clump of mud on his ball from the middle of the fairway, and his approach sailed left and plugged into the side of a bunker. The best he could do was blast out some 35 feet past the cup.
Furyk, coming off a birdie on the 13th to reach 14 under, was already in for par when he watched Woods posed over his putt and quickly lift his putter when the ball disappeared.
"It looked like it could have been a two-shot gap, and ended up a five-shot gap real quick," Furyk said. "Tiger has a way of keeping the pedal down ... and now it's six."
SCHEDULE CONFLICTS: While new dates have not been announced, somewhere around this year’s original dates would conflict with other major sports events next year The rescheduled Tokyo Olympics will require sacrifices and compromises by all involved, International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Thomas Bach said yesterday, before predicting the completion of “a beautiful jigsaw puzzle and wonderful Olympic Games.” “Our mission is to organize Games and make [the] dreams of athletes come true,” Bach said, adding that although the Olympics must be held before the end of summer next year, the as-yet-undecided dates would not necessarily be restricted to summer months. Japanese yesterday awoke to the deflating reality that the Olympics they had hoped to host in Tokyo this summer were now probably 16 months away. The IOC
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