Woods made two birdies and one bogey Saturday.
John Biever/SI
Monday, January 23, 2012

TULSA, Okla. — He bogeyed the par-3 14th hole, almost missed a tap-in for par on the 16th and very nearly got a particle of grass in his eye on the 17th.

Otherwise it was another fine day at the office for Tiger Woods, who followed his 63 on Friday with a one-under 69 on Saturday to extend his lead in the 89th PGA Championship at Southern Hills. At seven under par for the tournament, he has a three-stroke cushion over Stephen Ames, the plainspoken Trinidadian who has a history of antagonizing the world's No. 1 golfer.

"I accomplished my goal today," said Woods, who wore a blue towel over his shoulders in the chilly, air-conditioned media pavilion. "My goal was to shoot under par and increase my lead."

Woods's conversion rate when tied or leading through 54 holes on the PGA Tour is 39 for 42, 12 for 12 in the majors. Several players sounded as if the tournament was over already, and they seemed to be steeling themselves for yet another Woods victory march.

"I'm not going to be watching what he's doing," said Ames, who shot 69 to get to four under and into the final pairing at 2 p.m. Sunday. "He's probably going to play a steady game as he does when he's in the lead."

Woody Austin was another shot back at three under, John Senden was two under and Ernie Els was one under. The top five players on the scoreboard all shot the same score, 69, on a moving day that was anything but.

Indeed, the only suspense was whether there would be any residual ill will from the 2006 WGC-Accenture Match Play. Prior to playing Woods, Ames was quoted as saying anything could happen with the way Woods was spraying the ball, but the comments blew up in his face when Woods won 9&8.

Ames has always insisted he was misquoted, but he refused to clarify his comments after his round Saturday, saying, "Are we here at the PGA Championship or are we here at the Match Play? Which one are we talking about?"

Woods on Saturday addressed the 18-month-old mini-drama the same way he's addressed the recent comments of Rory Sabbatini, another player who couldn't resist tugging on Superman's cape.

"We all know Stephen is a person who likes to speak his mind," Woods said.

Woods prefers not to speak his mind but to let his clubs do the talking. A reporter asked, "Did it tick you off when you read that quote?" Woods danced around the question and ended up not saying if it ticked him off or not, revealing nothing, just as he gives his competitors nothing.

While he was on cruise-control in the third round, hitting his usual mix of long irons and fairway woods off the tees, his chief rivals crumbled.

Scott Verplank, by reputation a fierce competitor in the mold of Bob May, the sprite who gave Woods such trouble at the 2000 PGA, began the day two back and in the final group with Woods, matching every step of Woods's 4-4-4-3 start. Verplank dropped only a stroke on the front nine, but he crumbled on the back, looking very much like a short-hitting 43-year-old with a bad elbow. He was four over on holes 12-15.

"I guess I slept wrong," he said of the night-and-day difference between his 66 Friday and 74 on Saturday.

Woods, sensing the kill, birdied the par-4 12th to take a five-shot lead, at which point the truth was apparent: The world's greatest golfer was headed toward his 13th major championship, just five short of Jack Nicklaus's mythical total. It was over, and all that was left was getting the golfers to admit it.

"I don't want to — I can't say that because I'm competing," said Els, who rebounded from a double-bogey 6 on the 4th hole to shoot 69.

"He's playing well," said Verplank, who was in a seven-way tie for sixth place, seven shots back. "I mean, he's playing the golf course very smart, and when you hit a lot of fairways with irons, and he's hitting a lot of greens, and when you putt like he does, it doesn't look that difficult."

Geoff Ogilvy birdied the 3rd and 4th holes to get to four under but made three bogeys and a double-bogey the rest of the way to finish at one over, almost certainly too far behind to catch Woods.

Boo Weekley made the biggest move of the day with a five-under 65 that left him at even par for the tournament. He also kept an inaccurate scorecard for his playing partner Sergio Garcia, who absentmindedly signed it anyway and was disqualified. Otherwise very little happened in the third round.

With no one making much of a move and Woods out front, the possibility of a stirring final-round charge from one of his pursuers seemed remote. The most likely candidate was Ames, but that seemed a shaky proposition in light of the 9&8 debacle at the Accenture last year, and the final-round scoring averages of Woods (69.25) and his playing partners (72.92) in the 12 majors he's won.

"He has that influence on players," Ames said. "It's probably going to happen to me. I don't know. Like I said, I haven't been in this situation."

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