But his knee buckled slightly on the slope, and he appeared to wince. His walk was steady down the ninth fairway, but that five-shot lead was anything but that.
Els continued to gamble, waiting for the 10th green to clear and belting driver on the 366-yard dogleg to just left of the green, leaving him a simple up-and-down for birdie. And even though he missed a 6-foot birdie on the 11th and took bogey on the 12th with an approach into the back bunker, the South African didn't back down.
He two-putted for birdie on the 13th, then hit his tee shot on the 14th about 4 feet behind the hole for another birdie to reach 6 under, only two shots behind. And when Woods three-putted the 14th, the lead was a single shot.
"I felt like, you know, I got myself into this mess, now I've got to go earn my way out of it," Woods said. "I did some serious yelling at myself going to the 15th tee."
The bigger threat turned out to be Austin.
Wearing the same shirt he had on when he closed with a 62 to win in Memphis, he ran off three straight birdies starting at No. 11, the most unlikely coming at No. 12 when he chipped in from the front of the green to a back pin.
The cheers died in the final hour and the outcome was inevitable.
Until proven otherwise, Woods simply doesn't lose when he has the lead going into the final round. He took control of this tournament with his record-tying 63 in the second round, and became the fifth player to shoot 63 in a major and go on to win.