Sunday, June 24, 2018

Tiger Woods leads by four at Doral

DORAL — With one last putt for birdie that never looked like it was going anywhere but in the hole, Tiger Woods walked off the Blue Monster in a familiar position.

After shooting 5-under 67, he had a four-shot lead over Graeme McDowell (69) in the Cadillac Championship, at 18-under 198, the 17th time on the PGA Tour he had led by at least four shots going into the final round. Woods has never lost when leading by that much on the tour.

But Saturday at Doral was a reminder of how quickly things can change.

Woods knocked in a short birdie putt on the 15th hole to put six shots between him and McDowell. His lead was cut in half two holes later, after McDowell chipped in for eagle and Woods found himself staring some 20 feet in the air at his ball, lodged in a palm tree to the right of the 17th fairway.

Once his ball was identified, Woods took a penalty drop and made bogey.

Woods saved his best for the final hole. He drilled a tee shot into the fairway, hit a 9-iron to 15 feet and made his 24th birdie of the tournament, putting him on the cusp of another World Golf Championships win.

"After I made birdie on 15, I was looking pretty good with a six-shot lead, and with a drivable par 4," Woods said. "Two holes later, it's now cut down to three. I piped a tee shot down there, hit a little 9-iron there and was able to pour that putt in there."

The 24 tournament birdies and 74 putts are personal records for Woods. More important, it put him in great position to win his 17th WGC title, and his first since 2009.

"He controlled every part of his game very well, very few loose shots," McDowell said. "You know, 17 was a really bad break for him. But in true Tiger fashion that we've become very accustomed to over the years, to come back and birdie the last, he was fantastic (Saturday)."

Woods has a 39-2 record when he has the outright lead going into the final round on the tour. The only time he has lost a lead of more than two shots in any tournament was in 2010 against an 18-man field at the Chevron World Challenge, when McDowell beat him in a playoff.

Phil Mickelson had 69, along with Steve Stricker, and both were five shots behind. Rory McIlroy had five birdies in a six-hole stretch on the back nine that carried him to 71. He was 15 shots behind.

PGA: Fabian Gomez ran off six birdies on the front nine that sent him to 7-under 65 and a share of the lead with Scott Brown (67) going into the final round of the Puerto Rico Open at Grande. The two set the tournament record for 54 holes at 18-under 198 and were four clear of anyone else. Both are going for their first tour win, which would earn them a spot in the PGA Championship.

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