AKRON, Ohio – Staked to a seven-shot lead to begin the day, Tiger Woods remained on cruise control Saturday at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational. Here’s how things stand heading into the final round at Firestone Country Club, where Woods appears headed for his fifth win of the season in dominating fashion:
What it means: If there was any lingering doubt about how this one might play out, it was essentially erased by another clinical performance from Woods, who is on the verge of winning at Firestone for the eighth time in his career. Opening his round with a pair of birdies, the 14-time major champion made it look easy for much of the day, maintaining his seven-shot cushion after a 2-under 68 in the third round.
Round of the day: Beginning his round Saturday well out of contention, former Masters champion Charl Schwartzel fired a bogey-free 64 to move up 36 spots in the standings and into a tie for 28th. The South African began on the back nine, carding a birdie on the 18th for an outward 3-under 32 before adding two more birdies on holes 1 and 2. Schwartzel hit just 12 of 18 greens in regulation, but needed only 25 putts Saturday while recording one of the lowest rounds of the week on the South Course.
Best of the rest: Two weeks removed from a challenge at Muirfield, Miguel Angel Jimenez put forth the day’s second-best effort with a 5-under 65 at the South Course. The Spaniard closed his round with three straight birdies on Nos. 16-18, carding six birdies in total during his third round against a lone bogey at the par-3 15th. The score moved Jimenez into eighth place at 5 under, and he will start Sunday’s round 10 shots off the pace set by Woods.
Biggest disappointment: After opening with a sterling 64, Webb Simpson has been unable to sustain his good fortune through the last two rounds at Firestone. The former U.S. Open champion fired a 3-over 73 Saturday on the heels of a 5-over 75 in the second round, and after holding the overnight lead Thursday, he will now begin the final round tied for 28th at 2-over 212, 17 shots off the lead.
Main storyline heading into Sunday: Clearly, Woods looks to have this event very much under control. Despite a handful of miscues down the stretch Saturday afternoon, he appears firmly in command and seems poised to capture his second WGC title of the 2013 season. At this point, Sunday's final round could be as much about tuning up for next week's PGA Championship as it is about remaining ahead of the world-class field gathered at Firestone.
Shot of the day: After his approach sailed long and left at the par-4 13th, Woods faced a difficult pitch from the rough with little green to work with. Displaying touch that has helped him amass a sizeable advantage over the past two days, Woods flopped the ball out of the thick grass and watched it trickle into the hole. The unexpected birdie took him to 16-under overall and 3-under on his round at that point.