SAN DIEGO — Everything became perfectly clear Sunday at Torrey Pines. Tiger Woods was on his game and headed toward yet another win.
Woods seized control in the fog-delayed Farmers Insurance Open with a strong driving performance that carried him to 3-under 69 and a four-shot lead after the third round. Even when he got a little wild off the tee late in chilly afternoon of the fourth round, he still made birdies to stretch his lead to six shots when play was suspended by darkness.
Woods had 11 holes left to play when the round resumes today.
“It was a long day … and I played well today,” Woods said. “Overall, I’m very pleased that I was able to build on my lead.”
Thick fog washed out all of Saturday, forcing players to go from sunrise to sunset Sunday. They finished the third round, took about 30 minutes for lunch and went right back onto the golf course. CBS Sports wants to televise the conclusion – no surprise with Woods in the lead – so the round will not resume until 2 p.m.
Woods was at 17-under par for the tournament.
Defending champion Brandt Snedeker was 4 under through 13 holes of the final round and he was not making up much ground on Woods. Snedeker was at 11 under, along with Nick Watney, who was through eight holes.
Snedeker was seven shots behind after three rounds, the same deficit he faced a year ago. Only now he’s trying to chase down Woods, who is 38-2 on the PGA Tour when he has the outright lead going into the last round.
“I’ve got to make some more birdies,” Snedeker said. “I’ve got a long way to go. I’ve got a guy at the top of the leaderboard that doesn’t like giving up leads, so I have to go catch him.”
Woods finished 54 holes at 14-under 202 and was four shots ahead of rookie Brad Fritsch. It was the 16th time in his PGA Tour career that Woods had a 54-hole lead of at least four shots.
If that wasn’t enough to make the outcome look inevitable, everything was going his way in the final hour.
His tee shot was so far left on No. 2 that the ball finished in the first cut of rough in the sixth fairway. He still saved par. Woods made a birdie putt of about 10 feet on No. 3, and then wound up well right of the cart path and blocked by a tree on the fourth hole. He carved a punch shot around the tree, safely in front of the green, and his chip banged into the pin and dropped for birdie.
Two holes later, from a mangled lie in the right rough, he smashed a 5-wood that ran onto the green and set up a two-putt birdie.
Woods didn’t bother wearing red Sunday, knowing the tournament wouldn’t end until the next day.
In some respects, though, it had the feeling of being over. Fritsch birdied the last hole of the third round for 70 to finish on 206. Erik Compton finished birdie-eagle for 71 and was alone in third through 54 holes, five shots behind. When someone asked him about chasing Woods, Compton started laughing.
“I’m trying to chase myself,” he said.
Woods has won seven times at Torrey Pines as a pro, including a U.S. Open, and another win Monday would give him the most wins on any course. He also has seven wins at Bay Hill and Firestone. Sam Snead won the Greater Greensboro Open eight times, but only four times on one course.
Woods attributed his lead to “the whole package.”
“I’ve driven the ball well, I’ve hit my irons well, and I’ve chipped and putted well,” he said. “Well, I’ve hit good putts. They all haven’t gone in.”
Woods had superb control of his tee shots and was rarely out of position on a day that began under a light drizzle and soon gave way to patchy clouds and clear views of the Pacific surf below the bluffs.
Starting with a two-shot lead, he stretched that quickly with a tap-in birdie on the second hole and a beautiful tee shot to a left pin on the downhill par 3 to about 4 feet. The South Course played even longer with the soft conditions, and only seven players broke 70. Aaron Baddeley had the lowest score of the round with 68.
Woods managed to stretch his lead with pars, though he was always on the attack because of his position in the fairway.
He missed a downhill birdie putt from 4 feet on the par-5 ninth, and then came back with a wedge that landed near the hole at No. 10 and spun back next to the cup before it settled 4 feet away for a birdie putt that he made.
He led by as many as six strokes in the third round until Fritsch birdied the last hole and Woods, playing in the group behind, ran into trouble. His tee shot rolled up near the lip of the bunker, and he advanced it 70 yards into deep rough. He swung hard through the thick, wet grass into a greenside bunker, and then missed his 8-foot par putt.
Still, it was an ominous sign.
One week after he missed the cut in Abu Dhabi – thanks to a two-shot penalty he received after his round for taking relief from an embedded lie on the fifth hole when the rules didn’t allow for it – he looked as good as ever.
“As I said, I didn’t play that poorly,” Woods said of his short week in the Middle East. “I played well enough to be there on the weekend, and could have gotten two more rounds competitively, but I didn’t really play poorly. I thought I did a lot of good things. Just wanted to continue that this week, and I have.”
Woods has a 49-4 record on the PGA Tour when he has at least a share of the 54-hole lead, and it’s even more daunting when the lead is his alone. The only two players to come from behind to beat him over the final 18 holes were Ed Fiori in the Quad City Classic in 1996 when Woods was a 20-year-old rookie, and Y.E. Yang in the 2009 PGA Championship a Hazeltine.
In worldwide events, Thomas Bjorn (Dubai), Lee Westwood (Germany) and Graeme McDowell (Chevron World Challenge) have made up deficits against him on the last day.