It will be the third time this year Woods plays in the final group of a major. He was trailing at the Masters and U.S. Open and never caught up, but the odds are much higher in his favor of capturing his first major of the year.
Ames made a 12-foot birdie on the final hole for a 69 that put him in the final group of a major for the first time. Just his luck he gets Woods, spotting the 12-time major champion a three-shot lead.
Ames bristled when his loss to Woods in the Accenture Match Play Championship last year was brought up again. He jokingly said that anything could happen "especially where he's hitting the ball," and Woods went on to a record 9-and-8 victory two days later.
This time, Ames figures he has nothing to lose.
"For me, it's a great opportunity of being in the situation," he said. "Tiger's going for his 13th. I'm looking for my first."
Woody Austin lost his chance to be in the final group when he took bogey on the final hole for a 69, leaving him at 207. John Senden had a 69 and was another shot back, followed by Els.
"You recognize him as the world's No. 1, and him having the lead ... it's a tough ask to go out there and compete with him because you respect how good he is," Senden said. "I have to continue on what I have to do best, and if that's good enough to beat Tiger Woods, well, fantastic."
Verplank held his own until a double bogey from the rough and trees on the signature 12th hole, and a three-putt from the back of the 18th green for bogey ended his long day. He was in a large group at even-par 210.
For the briefest moment, the former U.S. Amateur champion from Oklahoma State pulled within one shot. Verplank dribbled an 8-foot birdie putt down the hill and into the cup at No. 4 to reach 5 under, only to watch Woods hole a 6-foot putt to match his birdie and restore the margin to two shots.
Walking to the fifth tee, Verplank smirked and said, "That guy makes everything."
It sure looked that way.
Woods atoned for a poor chip on the third with a 10-foot par save, and saved par from 10 feet again on the eighth after hitting into a bunker. His streak of 24 straight holes without a bogey ended when he hit 6-iron into the bunker on the 14th and missed from 18 feet.