Tiger claws out a 2-shot lead at the PGA
Chaska: Tiger Woods stayed calm in the face of charging rivals and an impending storm to hold a two-shot lead over Padraig Harrington and Yang Yong-eun of South Korea after Saturday’s third round of the US PGA.
Woods, who began another windy day at Hazeltine with a four-stroke lead over a group of five players, shot one-under-par 71 for an eight-under total of 208.
The 33-year-old American has never lost when he has carried a lead into the final round of a major, and all 14 of his major championship victories have come in this fashion.
While challengers were piling up birdies, and bogeys, Woods had 15 pars, two birdies and one bogey and finished just before heavy rain hit the area.
“I was pretty consistent today all day,” the world number one told reporters. “Only mistake I made was three-putting there at four. Other than that, the card was pretty clean.”
Holder Harrington, who briefly tied Woods for the lead late in the round, shot 69 despite a bogey at the last hole, and Yang fired a five-under 67 to match Woods’s first-round score and lowest for the tournament.
“It’s a privilege to be listed on top with those names, great names and great players that I admire and respect,” Yang, ranked 110th, told reporters through an interpreter.
Four strokes behind Woods, tied for fourth on four-under, were US Open champion Lucas Glover and Sweden’s Henrik Stenson. American Glover had 71, while Stenson posted a 67.
Triple major champion Ernie Els, who stood one shot behind Woods before finishing with three successive bogeys, was joined by Soren Kjeldsen of Denmark a further stroke behind on 213.
Harrington tied Woods on seven-under when he rolled in an eight-foot birdie at the 14th, and would have taken the lead outright had he made his 15-foot birdie putt on the next hole.
Woods reclaimed sole possession of the lead when he knocked the ball in the cup from just off the green at the 14th to reach eight-under with his first birdie since the second hole.
“I couldn’t get a putter on it, and I couldn’t chip it,” explained Woods, who used the blade of an iron to strike it.
“So my only shot was to kind of basically blade it and have it topple out of there. It jumped perfectly straight coming out, and held its line and broke at the end and went in.”
Woods doubled his lead when the Irishman bogeyed the 18th as rain began to fall after a weather warning was posted.
“The narrower the gap the better,” said Harrington, who was four back to start the day. “But obviously, to get a win you’ve got to beat him by three tomorrow and that’s a tall order.”
Yang, who won this year’s Honda Classic on the US Tour, surged up the leaderboard with three successive birdies from the 14th. He had six birdies in all against one bogey and will be paired with Woods in Sunday’s final round.
The 37-year-old Yang, a five-times winner on the Japan Tour, held off Woods to win the European Tour Champions event in China in November 2006.
“With Woods, he’s won 70 times now. I’ve only won once (on the US Tour) so it’s sort of 70-to-1 odds. Might as well go for broke.”
Organisers said players could go off in threesomes from both tees if weather forced a delay to Sunday’s start.
Woods, known as a deadly finisher, is gunning for a fifth US PGA title that would tie him with Jack Nicklaus and Walter Hagen on top of the list.
“I’ve played well to get myself in those positions, and fortunate to have won most of those events,” said Woods, who is 36-1 when leading going into a final round on the PGA Tour.
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