Tiger Woods at US Open 2012: Gauging His Chances Entering Round 3

Matt FitzgeraldCorrespondent IIIJune 16, 2012

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - JUNE 15:  Tiger Woods of the United States hits a tee shot on the 12th hole during the second round of the 112th U.S. Open at The Olympic Club on June 15, 2012 in San Francisco, California.  (Photo by Stuart Franklin/Getty Images)
Stuart Franklin/Getty Images

Tiger Woods's stranglehold in the majors is unquestionable—when he holds the 54-hole lead, that is.

Entering Saturday at the U.S. Open, though, it's less clear how Tiger will fare, since it is considered "moving day" and we're only halfway through the tournament.

If history is any indication, Tiger must hold at least a share of the 54-hole lead if he wants to win his fourth Open title.

However, this is a different Tiger. Legendary for his recovery from wayward tee shots, Tiger ranks first on the PGA Tour this season in total driving.

He has continued to find the fairway at The Olympic Club, and is among the leaders in greens in regulation this week.

If Tiger is to win this year's US Open, here is a breakdown of his Saturday performances in his three previous victories.

2000, Pebble Beach:

This tournament wasn't a "fair fight," according to Roger Maltbie. I tend to agree with him.

Tiger was already up by six strokes entering Saturday, and shot an even-par 71 at Pebble Beach. That was good enough to increase his lead by four.

He then went on to win by 15 shots, in what was arguably the greatest major championship performance in golf history.

2002, Bethpage Black:

Another third round even-par showing on the par 70 course in New York increased his lead from three to four shots.

Tiger shot +2 on the final day, but still won by three strokes over frequent runner-up Phil Mickelson.

2008, Torrey Pines:

Playing on virtually one leg, Tiger willed himself back into contention after a +2 effort on the front nine.

He eagled both par fives on the back nine to salvage a one-under par round of 70, giving himself sole possession of the lead entering the final round.

The rest, as they say, is history.

Given that Tiger's two most convincing wins at this championship came when he held the 36-hole lead, history bodes well for Tiger's play on Saturday.

What must improve in Tiger's game if he wants to emerge victorious, though, is his putting. He is averaging just 30 putts per round thus far.

If he can have an exceptional day and take somewhere around 26 while hitting the ball as well as he is, the Tiger of old may come out. The dominant force everyone came to know and love—and then briefly forget amidst a scandal—might officially reemerge on the stage he used to own.

The most exciting development to follow will be whether or not Tiger gets off to a hot start. The wily veteran Jim Furyk is paired with him, and is unlikely to get frazzled.

The rest of the field that is in realistic contention, though, isn't too experienced—and many are not even old enough to have been in the heat of competition when Tiger was in his 2000-esque form.

The perception is that Tiger doesn't scare opponents like he used to since his personal scandal.

However, no one has won more of these tournaments in the field than Tiger.

If the putter gets hot, watch out.