Pack is left trailing as Tiger stays on course

Published: 04th August 2013 12:02 PM  |   Last Updated: 04th August 2013 12:02 PM   |  A+A-


Tiger Woods is a high profile victim of sex addiction. (File photo: AP)

Only the insane do not envisage Woods lifting an eighth Firestone title on Sunday evening and so equalling his and Sam Snead’s record for the number of victories in a single tournament.

Apart from an outrageous chip-in from deep rough on the par-four 13th, Woods was not at his best, particularly when it came to his errant driving. But after his 61 on Friday he did not have to be.

A 68 took him to 15-under and all but confirmed his fifth win of the season. Next stop is Oak Hill for the USPGA with Woods looking more likely of adding to his major tally than at any stage since the 2009 USPGA. If he can find the fairways in Rochester then his short-game will assume control. In truth, it has rarely looked sharper.

“I didn’t quite have it, but I scored. And that’s the name of the game – posting a number,” he said. “Any time you can go into a major with a win under your belt it’s nice. It validates what you’re working on and gives you momentum. Hopefully I can seal the deal tomorrow.”

Chris Wood coped admirably with his first experience of playing with Woods. The young Bristolian shot a 70 to remain on six-under, two behind Henrik Stenson. “It was better than I could have hoped for – I loved every minute,” Wood said. “He gave me an absolute masterclass in damage limitation. I learned a lot."

What an opportunity today holds for Wood. A runner-up placing would hurtle him into the all-important world’s top 50 and with around £600,000 on offer for outright second it would give Wood the option of taking his PGA Tour card.

These are tempting fruits but with Stenson – who is on a fantastic run, having finished third and second in last month’s Scottish Open and Open – and Jason Dufner, in third on seven-under, in his path it will take a mighty performance, especially with his countryman Luke Donald on the same mark.

Donald’s 68 was a welcome return to form after his recent struggles and on six-under the former world No 1 will fancy his best result of his stuttering season.

Rory McIlroy also enjoyed a promising day with a 69, which is his first under-par score for 13 rounds stretching back to the Memorial at the start of June.

McIlroy holed a 25-footer on the third, a 50-footer on the fourth and a 10-footer on the fifth to move to three-under. Once again, however, his driver was to let him down, stalling his run. Bogeys on the sixth, 17th and the 18th stopped McIlroy from entering the top 10, although there was a 12-foot birdie.

It was reason for optimism, but he realises he must sort out his aim off the tee if he is to have a hope of successfully defending his USPGA title at Oak Hill. McIlroy only hit four out of 15 fairways and for the week, only four players in the 76-man field have worse accuracy stats. And this from a player considered one of the game’s great drivers.

At level par, McIlroy is alongside Ian Poulter and Justin Rose, who also shot 69s, and Wales’s Jamie Donaldson, after a 71. In a tie for 17th the quartet have a highly lucrative top-10 in their sights. It would boost their bank balances and, more pertinently, their self-belief before the season’s final major.

With Woods in this form they will need every scrap of confidence they can muster.

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