LYTHAM ST. ANNES, England — It would have been quite a talking point — perhaps even quite a distraction — if Adam Scott and Tiger Woods had been dueling for the claret jug in the final British Open pairing today.
It would have been intriguing to see how frosty the salutations might have been between Woods and Steve Williams, his former caddy. Williams, who parted on less-than-collegial terms with Woods last year, now runs interference and reads putts for Scott.
But Woods, despite a surge on the front nine at Royal Lytham & St. Annes on Saturday, could not sustain the necessary momentum on the back nine to generate that edgy grouping and the British tabloid headlines that would have gone with it.
Scott, who remains on friendly terms with Woods, did his part. He shot 2-under 68 that might have been lower if some of his nicely weighted putts for eagles and birdies had rolled just a shade farther.
At 11-under 199, Scott had a four-shot lead heading into today's final round and a pairing with Graeme McDowell, whose 67 put him at 7 under and in a tie for second with third-round leader Brandt Snedeker (73). Snedeker got the pairing with Woods, who was five shots back after shooting 70.
"A four-shot lead doesn't seem to be very much this year on any golf tournament that I've watched," Scott said. "The good part is if I play a solid round of golf (today), it will be very hard for the others to beat me, and that's all I'm thinking about."
Despite benign conditions, Scott and McDowell are the only two to have broken par in each round. But McDowell, who won the 2010 U.S. Open, has something his fellow 32-year-old does not: a major trophy.
"I'm sure myself and Adam will be experiencing slightly different emotions (today)," McDowell said. "But it will all boil down to … pressure. It will boil down to being scared, probably of failing more than winning. … (Scott has) the unfortunate burden of never having won a major championship."
Snedeker, who led Scott by a stroke after 36 holes, had many a misadventure Saturday.
Snedeker, who wore a black ribbon on his white visor in honor of those killed in the movie theater shooting at Aurora, Colo., did not make a bogey in the first two rounds. So it continued through the first four holes Saturday, but he then made consecutive bogeys.
He had four more bogeys after that. But Snedeker showed resilience on Lytham's difficult closing holes, fighting back with birdies on Nos. 16 and 18, where he holed a long curling putt.
"I'm not happy with it at all, by any means," Snedeker said. "But those two birdies late salvaged what could have been a horrific round into a pretty awful round."
Woods started the day by running his tee shot over the green at the par-3 first hole. A tentative chip came up 8 feet short, and he missed the putt. After another bogey at the third, it appeared he was headed for a repeat of his Saturday collapse at the last major championship.
Woods was tied for the 36-hole lead at the U.S. Open, but a 75 Saturday wiped out his chances.
"I got off to an awful start and battled back and got myself right back in the mix again going into (today). I'm right there," said Woods, who has never come from behind on the final day to win a major championship.
Today's forecast called for the wind to finally pick up after three days of sterling weather, which might be the best chance for everyone else to run down a leader with a comfortable edge.