Tiger Woods takes a massive nine stroke lead into the final round of the WGC-NEC Invitational at Firestone Country Club, Akron, Ohio, after shooting a 67 for a three round total of 192 in his defence of the title.
Welshman Phillip Price conjured up a superb 66 – equalling the best of the day – to make a dramatic move and the 33 year old from Newport sets off in pursuit of the World No.1 in the rarified atmosphere of joint second place with Hal Sutton and Phil Mickelson.
Mickelson, playing with Woods, had looked set to slice into the defending champion’s advantage, which swelled to 11 shots after three holes with Woods starting birdie, eagle birdie. However Woods bogeyed the fourth and played the remaining 14 holes all in par while Mickelson, after four birdies, slipped back with a bogey, double bogey finish.
Meanwhile Price, winner of the Portuguese Open six years ago, had five birdies and his solitary bogey at the 18th prevented him from teeing off in the last round with Woods, who is 18 under par for his 54 holes. Instead, the Welshman will go out in the penultimate game with Mickelson while Sutton has the pleasure of a Sunday stroll with Tiger.
“I think it will be a zoo out there with Tiger, so maybe it will help me to be out second from last" ”admitted Price, whose game has improved by leaps and bounds over the past couple of seasons.
“It’s the first time I’ve played over here and it’s a pleasure. I’ve got to say this is the best tournament I’ve been to. I’m just absolutely spoiled in terms of facilities and so on, but it’s all a learning curve for me and I am enjoying it.”
Price’s wife Sandra, who is expecting the couple’s first child at Christmas, looked on as her husband birdied the 12th, 15th and 16th as well as chipping in at the 14th on his way to a 66 which matched earlier efforts by Loren Roberts and Colin Montgomerie.
He added: “I hadn’t played well for two months and you begin to wonder where it’s gone, but my psychologist Alan Fine flew here this week and we worked on the direction I wanted to go in. We decided we were going to get right up there and he convinced me that it was possible.
“I re-set my goals and it seems to have got me focused again. I obviously want to play the Masters next year and to do that I need to get into the top 50 in the World Rankings and I’m going to need to move forward to do that.”
Sutton, helped by a hole in one with a five iron at the 12th, also finished on 201, nine under par, while Montgomerie enjoyed his best day from two weeks in America with his 66.
The Scot leapt to eighth place thanks to that storming effort, which contained five birdies and a bogey. He said: “I drove the ball very well – long and straight. That was the big difference. It was nice to have shot that score as 66 has a nice ring to it. Certainly better than 76.
“I’ve struggled to compete over the last few weeks but this has helped and I’m looking forward to returning here in the future. I think what’s happened with the galleries has held me back in the past. When you stand on the first tee feeling uncomfortable it’s not good.
“It’s now becoming a pleasure to play over here. That’s also my lowest round in the States for a long time. I can’t remember when I last shot a 66. I am now looking forward to going to Germany next week and defending the BMW International open title.”
Andrew Coltart shot a 69 to finish one stroke behind Montgomerie on 207 while Darren Clarke (71) and Thomas Björn (70) are on 208 along with Lee Westwood, who had a difficult day, bogeying the 16th and 18th for a 73.