Woods' PGA lead grows to four shots

Saturday, Aug 15, 2009 1:14 AM
Last updated 1:16 AM
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CHASKA, Minn. — Tiger Woods watched the last of his three consecutive birdies take one last turn and drop into the cup. Walking toward the hole, he nodded his head and dangled his tongue out of the side of his mouth, a swagger that spoke volumes.

He is on top of his game at the PGA Championship, and he knows it.

In blustery conditions and on bumpy greens, Woods made key par putts early in his round and big birdies toward the end for 2-under-par 70 that gave him a four-shot lead in the final major of the year.

The late string of birdies came in the final hour Friday at Hazeltine, and it changed everything.

The final birdie putt gave this major that look of inevitability, with some frightening figures to back it up.

Woods is 8-0 in the majors when leading after 36 holes. He has never lost any tournament when leading by four shots going into the weekend. Of the top 16 players going into the second round, he was the only player to break par.

“In order to have a lead in a major championship, you can’t be playing poorly,” said Woods, who was at 7-under 137. “And all the times that I’ve been in this position, I have played well. And I’m playing well now.”

Padraig Harrington, who tried to keep pace and hit one shot that Woods called one of the best he had ever seen, was asked after staggering to 73 whether a four-shot lead was different when it belonged to the world’s No. 1 player.

“What do you think?” the Irishman said, grinning. “That’s self-evident. We’re all well aware of his ability to lead in the front. He gets better from the front. I think he likes that position.”

Woods was four shots clear of five players who have their work cut out for them.

Vijay Singh (72), U.S. Open champion Lucas Glover (70) and Brendan Jones (70), the Australian whom Woods beat in his return to competition in February at Match Play, all played in the morning.

Harrington and Ross Fisher, who closed with two bogeys for 68 to become the third player to fall out of the lead, had to cope with the fierce conditions of the afternoon.

It was Woods’ largest 36-hole lead in a major since he led by five in the 2005 British Open at St. Andrews.

He has not lost a 36-hole lead on the PGA Tour in five years, dating to the Byron Nelson when he was revamping his swing. He came to Hazeltine having won his past two tournaments, however, and appears to be hitting his stride.

It was the first time Woods has opened a major with consecutive rounds under par since the 2006 PGA at Medinah.

He will be paired in the final group today with Singh.


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