Commentary

All signs point to inevitable victory for Woods

Updated: August 11, 2007, 9:14 PM ET
By Bob Harig | Special to ESPN.com

TULSA, Okla. -- In Tiger's realm, the yawn is a good thing. Not because the world's best golfer is a new daddy and spending some sleepless nights at home -- although that is likely the case, too.

No, we're talking about the lack of excitement Saturday at Southern Hills Country Club, the sleep-inducing third round of the PGA Championship that saw Woods increase his lead to three strokes, leaving him another mundane day away from his 13th major championship.

It might have been boring, but for Tiger Woods, it was beautiful.

Woods packed all the excitement into Friday's round, when he made eight birdies and a run at history, shooting a 63 that saw him come within one lipped-out putt on the final green of setting the all-time major championship scoring record.

Tiger Woods
Streeter Lecka/Getty ImagesWoods made two birdies, one bogey and 15 pars in Saturday's third round.

That gave him a two-shot advantage over his nearest pursuer ... and sent him right to defense mode. And who is better in that situation?

Woods takes the air out of the ball better than Dean Smith, protects a lead better than the '85 Bears. He has never failed to win a major championship when in this position, and doesn't figure to blow one now.

A 1-under 69 extended Woods' lead, and now it is over Stephen Ames, his punching bag at the 2006 Match Play Championship. Woods waxed him 9 and 8 after Ames suggested that anything could happen, "especially where he's hitting the ball."

Another stroke back is self-abusing Woody Austin, who is "nervous if I'm playing with Joe Schmo. I'm trying to win the golf tournament, that's what's scary."

John Senden is another stroke back. John Senden? Does anybody really think any of those three can overtake Woods?

Geoff Ogilvy suggested that Woods has got to let one get away sometime. Now does not appear to be the time. Woods is 12-for-12 in majors when holding at least a share of the 54-hole lead. In fact, all of his Grand Slam titles have come from out front. He is also 39 of 42 in such situations on the PGA Tour.

He has never lost any tournament when leading by more than one stroke after 54 holes.

And yes, it only makes sense that one day he's going to let one of these majors slip. Odds, law of averages, whatever you want to call it. And you could put an asterisk by the numbers for this year's Masters and U.S. Open, where he did not lead going into the final round but did grab at least a share of it over the course of the final 18 holes, only to fall short. That had never happened to Woods.

But this is different. Way different.

Woods is coming off an eight-stroke victory at a major championship-like Bridgestone Invitational, where he was the only player to finish under par and shot a final-round 65. After a sluggish 71 on Thursday, Woods burst into the lead during the second round and did what he had to do Saturday, keeping everyone at arm's length. He hit nine of 14 fairways. He hit 14 of 18 greens. He made two birdies and one bogey. Simple, effective.

"My goals were to shoot under par and increase my lead," said Woods. He did exactly that.

"If I was not a golfer, a fan on the couch, I'd be putting my house on him, yeah," said Ernie Els, who is six strokes back.

In fairness to Els, he said that trying to look at it like he was you or me. "The statistics tell you, yes, it's over," he said. "But as a competitor, I can't sit there and tell you it's over. I can't ever do that. I need to shoot something unbelievable and he's got to make mistakes."

The problem for those chasing is that Woods rarely falters when in this position. When his swing is in synch, he can be surgical, careful. At Southern Hills, he can hit irons off numerous tees, attack when the opportunity presents, but more than likely hit to the middle of the greens and take his pars.

"You want to be in front on this golf course," Els said. "To shoot low around here without any mistakes is very tough to do. We've got a lot of pressure on us."

Ames was asked if he really wanted to make that birdie putt on the final green, the one that put him in the last pairing with Woods. Of course he did ... not because he wanted to be part of the circus that is a Woods pairing, but he simply did not want to spot him an even bigger advantage.

"Five in front of him may not be enough," Ames said. "I'm three behind. I'm trying to get as close as I can."

Woods can watch it all unfold in front of him Sunday. He can see if anybody is making a run, determine if the course is playing easy or difficult. "There's a certain feel you get out there for what the numbers are going to be that day," he said.

His third round could have been a dissertation on how to play from out front. Woods knows how to do that better than anyone in golf history. For him, the subject matter is old, but certainly not dull -- even if he tends to make it look that way.

Bob Harig is a frequent contributor to ESPN.com. He can be reached at BobHarig@gmail.com.

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Golf Writer, ESPN.com