Leader by 3 shots, Tiger Woods is seven holes away from historic 82nd PGA Tour win

V Krishnaswamy Chiba | Updated on October 27, 2019

Tiger Wood at the Zozo Championships   -  Twitter via @PGATOUR

Tiger Woods, an incredible finisher, has never lost when leading by three shots or more the last 24 times

Tiger Woods stood at the doorstep of another historic achievement as he led by three shots with seven holes to play when darkness set in at the Zozo Championships at the Accordia Golf and  Country Club on Sunday.

After playing his third round in four-under 66 he was two-under through 11 holes for the final round to get to 18-under. Woods was three shots ahead of local hero Hideki Matsuyama, who shot 65 in third round and was two-under through 12 in fourth.

Woods, an incredible finisher, has never lost when leading by three shots or more the last 24 times. As he seems to extend that streak to 25, he is also on the threshold of career-defining achievement of  equalling Sam Snead’s record of 82 PGA Tour wins. His 81win came earlier in the year at the Masters.

Also read: Serious about the Olympics, Tiger Woods excited about three-event year-end run

Behind Woods and Matsuyama, was Korea’s Sungjae Im, three more behind at 12-under alongside US Open  champion Gary Woodland. Rory McIlroy, who lit up the third round with a 63, was 11-under and had two holes to play in the final round on Monday morning.

Woods, who is coming off a fifth knee procedure, handled the situation of playing 29 holes very well. Whenasked what was it that takes the toll most in a tough situation like this, Woods said, I think it's the mind; being in it for 10 hours is a long period of time . I can't warm up, too, because you're grinding, so that's a long period of time to be focused. The mind tends to wander a little bit and (you have to)  got to grab it and make it come back and be 100 percent committed on the shot.”

On the physical aspect and playing 36 holes in a day, he said, “Yeah, I have but its in a cart. A little bit different than when you have to walk out here and squat up and down to read putts. No, it's not that easy, and considering that I had the stress of having the lead and being under the gun for that long, it's a long period of time having come off of a knee procedure and (I) haven't really stressed it like this.”

With huge crowds in excess of 25,000 turning up for Sunday, which was expectedly very  busy following the postponement of the second round because of a stormy Friday. A noise-free and a spectator-free Saturday, when the spectators and fans were not allowed for the  second round because of dangerous ground  conditions, meant the crowd was even more excited to see Woods back in action.

Woods, smiling at the reception, began with a bogey, but soon settled down and had six birdies against two bogeys to extend his second round lead of two to three by the end of the third round. 

With everyone starting third round on Sunday,  players got in between 29 and 36 holes as some teed off as early as 6.30 am. Woods played 29, while 30 players including Open champion, Shane Lowry (67-65) played two full rounds.

McIlroy summed up saying, “I'm happy for the crowds, I'm happy for the people of Japan that they got to see us play a lot today. Obviously Tiger leading, Hideki chasing him down, you couldn't have written it any better for the first PGA TOUR event in Japan.”

After finishing his third round in 66, with six birdies against two bogeys, Woods opened the final round within 30 minutes and did it in style  by knocking in his iron to seven feet and moving to 17-under. He erred on fourth hitting into the gallery, only to recover and then leave himself short and the chip didn’t quite work and ended with a bogey. 

He made amends getting inside six feet for birdie on fifth and then hit a difficult third shot to five feet for yet another birdie. It  was his last for the day as he parred the next five to be 18-under when darkness set in with seven holes to play.

Just as it seemed Woods would take his three-shot margin after 54 holes to four after 65, Matsuyama holed a massive birdie on 12 to keep the margin to three and moved to 15-under with six more holes to play as the exciting Sunday came  to an end, but leaving it till Monday for the winner to be crowned.

Published on October 27, 2019

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