Mon, Jan 28, 2008 - Page 19 News List

Woods takes lead at US$5.2 million Buick Invitational

AFP , LA JOLLA, CALIFORNIA

Tiger Woods hits out of the bunker on the 11th green during the third round of the Buick Invitational on Saturday at the Torrey Pines Golf Course in La Jolla, California.

PHOTO: AFP

Three-time defending champion Tiger Woods fired a six-under par 66 on Saturday to open an eight-shot lead at the US$5.2 million PGA Buick Invitational.

Woods, who was hoping to pocket the close to US$1 million in first-place prize money yesterday, is at 18-under 198 after 54 holes and leads American Stewart Cink by eight shots and Joe Durant by nine. Cink carded a 69 and Durant a 67.

"If it was over they would be handing me the trophy today," Woods said. "I just have to play my own game and put a number in my head and go get it.

"I have to be steady and never make a bogey," he said.

Woods' bogey-free round Saturday included six birdies on the Torrey Pines golf course near San Diego.

"The hardest thing about today was trying to take the spin off golf ball," he said.

Woods' eight-stroke lead going into the final round shattered the tournament record of five shared by Gene Littler in 1954, Bob Goalby in 1967 and J.C. Snead in 1976.

"I'd like to have the biggest lead you can possibly have," Woods said. "You've still got to go out there and play well and post a number."

Woods, who is gunning for his fourth straight and sixth career title in this event, tied the 54-hole tournament record, established by Woody Blackburn in 1985.

Woods started the day with a four-stroke lead. He was two-under on the front nine and picked up four birdies on the back nine.

Woods posted his 19th straight round in the round in the 60s, a run stretching back to the first round of the Deutsche Bank Championship in September.

Sunday's forecast is for about 5cm of rain, which would add more moisture to an already soggy course which could disrupt the final round.

PGA Tour Tournament director, Mark Russell said the tour is committed to playing four rounds.

"If we can't play [yesterday] we'll definitely look at the forecast for Monday," Russell said. "They're calling for showers Monday, but we'll take a closer look at that."

"We'll definitely play 72 holes. If it was really, really bad and the golf course was unplayable and supposed to continue into Monday, we'd take a look at that. We're mandated to play 72 holes," he said.

Woods is due to play in the Dubai Desert Classic next week, and needs to get there by Wednesday for a Pro-am round.

"We're going to probably have to get it in on Monday and if so, so be it," Woods said. "I'll still go over there and play and I'll still be in time to play the pro-am, which will be my practice round, then tee it up on Thursday."

"I hope we get it finished," said Cink, who made his big push for second place with a 38-foot eagle putt on 18.

"You know, if we don't, then that putt may have been a big eagle for me on the last hole," he said.

Cink was being chased by Durant and, a further three shots back, Doug LaBelle, Justin Leonard, Aaron Baddeley and Boo Weekley.

"I think there are two tournaments going on," Leonard said.

"There is really a tournament within the tournament. I'm going to try to win the tournament that Tiger Woods isn't playing in Sunday," he said.

Woods said the key to his big edge was avoiding bogeys.

"I've only made one bogey, that's basically it," Woods added of his path to the top of the leaderboard.

"I'm sure some guys have made just about the same amount of birdies as I have, but I've only dropped one shot," he said.

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