Tiger Woods conjured up the second greatest round at Firestone Country Club in Akron, Ohio, to take a vice-like grip on the World Golf Championships-NEC Invitational.
The world No.1 shot a third round 62 – one outside Jose Maria Olazabal’s 1990 course record – to open up a commanding five stroke lead going into the final round with a $1 million first prize at stake.
Woods was simply devastating as he covered the gruelling Firestone South Course in halves of 32 and 30 for a total of 199, 11 under par, to lead by five from two players on 204.
Fred Couples fired a 63 which seemed out of this world until Woods had the final say. He is joined on the six under par mark with Nick Price of South Africa, who shot a third round 68.
However it was a disappointing day for Europe’s new superstar, Sergio Garcia (69), and Open champion Paul Lawrie from Scotland, who dropped back with a 74.
Garcia had threatened all afternoon to be Woods’ closest challenger, but he was betrayed by his driver when it counted near the end. The teenager was seven under par and on the tail of the Tiger when he hooked his tee shot at the 16th.
The ball was unplayable and he had to get up and down from a bunker for a bogey. His birdie putt on the 17th sat agonisingly on the lip and Garcia tried to will it into the hole before accepting his par.
Then at the last another pulled tee shot into thick rough resulted in two hacks to escape the long grass and a double bogey six pushed him back into a tie for sixth on 206, four under par.
The disappointed Spaniard said: “I didn’t drive well and now I’ll have to shoot even better than Tiger to have a chance tomorrow.”
Lawrie, five under at the start and sharing the lead with Carlos Franco of Paraguay, did not manage to unearth a solitary birdie and he finished with a round of 74 for 209, ten behind Woods and level with his Ryder Cup colleague, Padraig Harrington, who had a 70.
Jesper Parnevik and Colin Montgomerie both made progress, but a little too late. Parnevik shot a four under par 66 while Montgomerie weighed in with a three under par 67.
There were other solid performances from Andrew Coltart and Darren Clarke, who carded 69s for 211 and 214 respectively. Jean Van de Velde was round in 68, also for 214, Jarmo Sandelin 73 for 215, Lee Westwood 70 for 216 and Jose Maria Olazabal 69 for 219.