Tiger Woods put some distance between himself and the rest of the world-class field at the WGC-Cadillac Championship on Saturday. A hot start that featured three consecutive birdies eventually culminated in a five-under round of 67 for Woods, who doubled his 36-hole lead to four strokes over Graeme McDowell.
That duo will be paired together again for Sunday's final round, and if Day 3 was any indication, it should be an entertaining finish.
Woods, who finished at 18-under, began his round with three straight birdies, but McDowell was right there with him, hitting an eagle on the TPC Blue Monster at Doral's short, opening par-five.
After a relatively stable stretch for the remainder of the front nine, the drama escalated down the stretch. A flubbed chip at the par-four 14th resulted in a double bogey for McDowell, which opened up a five-shot lead for Woods.
As he has done so many times, though, McDowell ground his way back despite the formidable foe he was facing. A brilliant chip-in at the drivable par-four 16th marked the Northern Irishman's second eagle of the day. He also narrowly missed a birdie at No. 17, when Woods carded a bogey after taking an unplayable lie.
Whether or not Woods snags the trophy in South Beach, it seems clear that he is back on his game, as alluded to by renowned golf personality Scott Van Pelt.
IF Tiger wins Doral, it's W's in 5/19 starts on PGA Tour. The media (me included) can stop asking" Is he back?"Ask something smarter— Scott Van Pelt (@notthefakeSVP) March 9, 2013
Not that McDowell doesn't have a chance on Sunday, but that was a big turning point. Woods walked off the course with a huge shot of momentum. He bounced back from the bogey to bury a putt at the difficult No. 18.
ESPN Stats & Info indicates that Woods has a solid chance to win this event for the seventh time.
Tiger Woods has 4 shot lead...he's 7-7 converting 54-hole leads into wins at WGC events— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) March 9, 2013
Although he hasn't won a World Golf Championship event since 2009, ESPN's Justin Ray points out just how incredible Woods has been in these tournaments.
A win tomorrow would give @tigerwoods 17 career WGC victories. Nobody else has more than 3.— Justin Ray (@JRayESPNGolf) March 9, 2013
There are plenty of big names in the top 10, but this looks to be a two-horse race between Woods and McDowell—that is, barring some sort of magic from Phil Mickelson (-13) or major champions Charl Schwartzel and Keegan Bradley, both of whom seem too far back at 11-under.
Here is a look at some of the day's best highlights, courtesy of PGATOUR.com.
This was the second of three birdies for Lefty on the back nine, as he overcame an early double bogey to give himself a puncher's chance. Mickelson is tied for third with Steve Stricker.
McDowell redeemed a costly prior chip to sink this from just off the 16th green, despite having very little room to work with on the short side.
A brilliantly played final hole by Woods allowed him to cap off his round with a bang, as he rolls in this birdie putt right in the middle.
This is what the top of the star-studded leaderboard looks like after Saturday's action in Miami. For complete scores, check out PGA.com.
|1||Tiger Woods ||66-65-67||-18|
|2||Graeme McDowell ||66-67-69 ||-14|
|T3||Phil Mickelson ||67-67-69||-13|
|T3||Steve Stricker ||67-67-69||-13|
Keegan Bradley ||68-68-69||-11|
|T5||Sergio Garcia ||66-72-67||-11|
Charl Schwartzel ||71-65-69 ||-11|
|T5||Michael Thompson ||69-69-67 ||-11|
|T9||Bubba Watson ||66-69-71||-10|
|T9||Freddie Jacobson ||66-69-71||-10|