Friday, 19 March 2010

Tiger Woods will take a four stroke lead into the final day of the WGC – CA Championship as he looks to extend his remarkable record in the event. The World Number One has won five of the seven previous editions of the tournament and took another huge step to securing a sixth with a third round of four under par 68 at Doral Golf Resort & Spa, Miami.

That score took Woods to 11 under par 205, four clear of compatriot Brett Wetterich and five better than Nick O’Hern of Australia, who spearheads The European Tour challenge on six under.

Left-hander O’Hern, who is chasing his maiden victory on The European Tour International Schedule after eight runners-up finishes, produced some brilliant ball-striking in blustery conditions for a round of six under par 66 – an effort only matched by England’s Paul Casey.

Three more European Tour Members are among the group on five under, but Denmark’s Thomas Björn, South African Ernie Els and Fijian Vijay Singh will in all probability be fighting it out for second place.

That was a point recognised by Björn after his solid round of 71. He said: “The problem is that I’m in a good position with everybody else. When Tiger is like this it’s very difficult. He is hitting some incredible shots and the tee shot at 16 and the two he played into 18, well not many players in the field can hit those shots. We all know that when he’s on his best he is very difficult to handle.”

Hard to handle, and hard to catch. Of the 41 previous occasions that Woods has led going into the final round, he has emerged as the winner in 38 of them.

Add that amazing record to his obvious liking for Doral’s famed ‘Blue Monster’ Course – he is 75 under par for 19 tournaments rounds played there – and few will be expecting anything other than another Woods victory in the World Golf Championships.

“The greatest thing about having the lead is that if you make a couple of mistakes on Sunday, you can still win the tournament. When you’re coming from behind and make a couple of mistakes, you can put yourself right out of it. I am always more comfortable being in the lead,” commented Woods.

There was more bad news for the rest of the field when Woods revealed that he was off that evening to watch his good friend, Roger Federer play in the Sony Ericsson Open tennis tournament that is also taking place in Miami this weekend. When the two World Number Ones are in each other’s company talk inevitably turns to the best way to prepare and focus for the heat of top-level competition.

“It’s neat and intriguing for me to talk to him, and see what he thinks on certain situations, and we pick each other’s brains a bit and discuss the dedication required off the tennis court and off the golf course,” explained Woods.

O’Hern capped a flawless day by holing his chip for a birdie three at the treacherous 18th, which was in stark contrast to the finish of Els, who took six to sign for a round of 71. Singh also birdied the last for a 69.

“I have missed the last couple of cuts but I have not been playing badly. Today was a culmination of a lot of hard work. I’m working towards the big picture of a Major so to shoot 66 and not make a bogey in these conditions was very pleasing,” said O’Hern.

Casey bounced back to form with a bogey-free 66 of his own, which hauled the Englishman up from tied 59th place to tied tenth on four under par for the tournament.

Casey arrived in Miami suffering the ill effects of a nasty head cold and his opening round of four over par 76 was proof that things were far from well. But as his condition improved so have his scores: a 70 on Friday was followed by Saturday’s six-birdie card.

“I’m getting better and my body feels absolutely fine, so there’s no excuse when it comes to performing on the golf course. Today I did that. I went out there with very low expectations, trying to eliminate the mistakes and that’s exactly what I did.

“I’m happy with the form. I’ve just got to try and continue that through the Masters,” commented Casey, who was particularly delighted to par the treacherous 18th after playing the hole in four over during the first two days.

Casey was joined on four under par by Sergio Garcia of Spain (71), Geoff Ogilvy of Australia (71) and the Swedes Niclas Fasth (70) and Henrik Stenson (72).

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