Putter shaky, Woods still extends lead

Published October 1, 2006

CHANDLER'S CROSS, England - Tiger Woods was alone on the far end of the practice green at The Grove as this small village north of London lost the last of its light Saturday, his competition already gone in more ways than one.

He rapped three putts at a time, exasperated as each one slid by the cup, listening to coach Hank Haney offer quiet instruction as some 500 fans stood six-deep behind the railing to watch Woods try to fix a balky putting stroke.

And this was after he made eagle on the final hole to stretch his lead to six shots in the American Express Championship.

"The guy never ceases to amaze me," caddie Steve Williams said.

After missing a half-dozen putts inside 12 feet, Woods holed a 35-foot eagle putt on the 18th hole for 4-under 67 that demoralized the 60-man field at this World Golf Championship event and left him one round away from his sixth consecutive PGA Tour victory.

Woods finished at 19-under 194, putting him six shots clear of Adam Scott, who shot bogey-free 65.

Woods played with Jim Furyk, his practice and playing partner a week earlier in the Ryder Cup.

Furyk made 16 pars and two birdies for 69 but wound up losing ground and finished seven shots behind.

And it could have been an even bigger gap.

"I hit it far better than I did the first two days and made absolutely nothing," Woods said. "It was a struggle on the greens all day. I kept telling myself, 'Just keep hanging in there.' I had two par 5s to play, and if I could play the par 5s at 2 under par, I'd be just fine. I actually did one better."

He needed a little luck. His tee shot on the 567-yard closing hole went to the left, about a yard from the gallery ropes. But because fans have been leaning into the rope all week to get a better view, the 6-inch grass was tamped down toward the green, giving Woods a perfect lie. With a slight breeze helping, he hit 5-wood from 283 yards that hopped onto the front of the green.

He even hit that putt with the wrong speed, expecting it go 6 feet by until the cup got in the way.

"To putt not very good (Saturday) and still increase my lead is a pretty good feeling," Woods said.

Scott played his best round of the week, picking up birdies on an afternoon with thunder on the horizon and sudden shifts in the temperature as storm fronts passed by.

He was four shots behind when he finished, and sensed a chance.

"At the moment, I've made up a few shots," Scott said. "Hopefully, it will stay where it is right now, and you never know. There might be a chance to run him down tomorrow."

A short time later, the lead looked daunting.

Scott won his first tournament of the year three weeks ago at the Singapore Open, beating Ernie Els in a playoff after the final round was cut short to nine holes.

Woods is 37-3 on the PGA Tour (43-5 worldwide) when he has at least a share of the lead going into the final round. He has never lost when the lead has been more than one shot. The odds are so much in his favor that one of the British bookmakers listed him at 1-125 to take home his eighth PGA Tour victory of the year today.

PGA Tour: D.J. Trahan shook off double bogey to maintain a two-stroke lead in the Southern Farm Bureau Classic, birdieing the final two holes for 1-under 71 on the Annandale Golf Club course in Madison, Miss. Trahan, who has led after all three rounds, finished at 12-under 204 after opening with rounds of 65 and 68. Two-time U.S. Open champion Lee Janzen (67) was second, and Daniel Chopra (68) and Brad Faxon (72) followed at 9 under.

champions: Lakeland's Andy Bean remained in position for his first victory on the senior tour, shooting 2-under 70 to take a two-stroke lead into the final round of the Greater Hickory Classic in Conover, N.C. Two-time U.S. Senior Open champion Allen Doyle was second after shooting 66 that included six birdies.

Asian: India's Rahil Gangjee held on to the lead ahead of a charging Lin Wen-hong in the third round at the Mercuries Taiwan Masters. Gangjee was even-par for the day. His three-day total of 8-under-par 208 is one better than Wen-hong's, who was the biggest mover after shooting 8-under 64. American Bryan Saltus slipped to fifth after shooting 73.

Florida mid-amateur: Tommy Dudley of Jacksonville upset No. 1 seed Steve Carter in 20 holes to advance to the semifinals at Black Diamond Ranch in Lecanto. Dudley faces Noi Chay of Land O' Lakes today. Chay won his first two matches 2 and 1, then beat Patrick Olive,of Holiday in the quarterfinals 1-up.