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Woods holds firm grip on PGA lead

8/15/2009 - Golf Tiger Woods

CHASKA, Minn. -- This is a spot from which he has never failed. You think that it cannot continue, that the odds are not in his favor, that someday his luck will change and someone will come along to beat him.

But the fact remains; Tiger Woods is 8-for-8 when leading a major championship through 36 holes.

And he's 14-for-14 when leading through 54 holes.

These are remarkable numbers for several reasons. While some would suggest it is a knock against Woods that he has never come from behind to win a major on the final day, how incredible is it that he so often has gotten in this position and always managed to deliver?

Woods is now 36 holes and two days away from his 15th major championship.

"I would go along the lines of it's got to break at some stage; might as well tell myself that," said Padraig Harrington, who played with Woods during the first two rounds and finds himself in a five-way tie for second, four shots back. "In fairness to Tiger, that's never going to last forever. Maybe he'll be 60 when it's broken, but it's never going to last forever."

For those chasing Woods -- who shot 2-under-par 70 and was bettered by just three players in the field -- you do have to tell yourself that.

Otherwise, why bother showing up? How else do you manage to catch the game's greatest frontrunner?

Woods is at 137, 7 under par, at the halfway point of the PGA Championship.

Vijay Singh, whose even-par 72 was complete before Woods even teed off, earned himself a third-round pairing with Woods because he was the first player to post 3 under par. Australia's Brendan Jones -- who lost to Woods at the first round of the Accenture Match Play Championship in February when the game's No. 1 player made his return from knee surgery -- is also at 3 under.

So is U.S. Open champion Lucas Glover, England's Ross Fisher -- whose 68 was marred by bogeys at the final two holes -- and Harrington, the defending champion.

For Woods, the post-round synopsis was not nearly as entertaining as the one given by Harrington, who managed to elicit several laughs in explaining once again the challenges of playing with and trying to defeat Woods.

The best answer Woods gave came in response to a question about Harrington's second shot at the par-5 15th hole.

In a fairway bunker and from 301 yards away, Harrington knocked a 3-wood onto the green and narrowly missed his eagle putt.

"That's one of the best shots I've ever seen," Woods said. "You could hear ... he didn't mis-hit that, he hit it flush, out of a bunker, uphill lie. ... It was a pretty impressive shot and it was definitely worth the price of admission."

"He did say to me actually that he would have paid to have seen it," Harrington said. "Did he tell you that? So I asked him for 50 bucks."

That helped Harrington, who had made three consecutive bogeys on the back nine, get on track. Although he began the round one shot behind Woods and finished four back after a 73, he has acquitted himself well over the past two weeks when he's been paired with Woods for three straight rounds. He finished second to Woods last Sunday at the Bridgestone Invitational.

Still, of the top 16 players on the leaderboard when the day began, Woods was the only one to break par.

"Well, I think it's just in order to have a lead in a major championship you can't be playing poorly," Woods said. "And all the times that I've been in this position, I have played well. And I'm playing well now. So it's just a matter of continuing what I've been doing this week."

Woods increased his lead, but it was far from easy. He bogeyed his first hole after a poor approach and made some solid par saves early in the round to keep it going. Then after making birdies at the sixth and seven holes, he again hit a poor approach to the par-4 10th with a wedge that led to a 3-putt bogey.

And he could have bogeyed the 11th and 12th holes, too, were it not for some solid saves.

"I could have easily shot a couple over par, but I turned it into an under-par round," Woods said. "It could have been worse than it is."

But it wasn't. And that's the point. It rarely is.

"It was a tough day all the way around," he said. "It was tough gettin' out there. The wind was blustery, the greens were bumpy.''

And he still has a 4-stroke lead.

In addition to his dominance in the majors at this point in a tournament, Woods is also 32-6 in such situations in his PGA Tour career, having converted 12 straight times going back five years. The last time he did not finish off a victory after leading at the halfway point was at the 2004 EDS Byron Nelson Championship, where he led through 36 holes before tying for fourth.

Perhaps there is this glimmer of hope for Woods' pursuers: by bogeying the 18th hole, Woods failed to shoot in the 60s. In each of his 14 major championship victories, Woods always shot in the 60s during the second round.

Of course, anyone holding onto that does not have a very firm grip.

Bob Harig covers golf for ESPN.com. He can be reached at BobHarig@gmail.com.