Tiger Woods got off to a hot start on the par-70 Firestone course, but simmered quickly for a 3-under-par round of 67. At 18-under, Woods is nine shots clear of a Hal Sutton, Phil Mickelson and Welshman Phillip Price.
Thanks to rounds of 64-61, Tiger took a seven-shot lead into the third round of the $5 million event. With the eventual outcome having all-but-been decided through 36 holes, the only point of interest was to see if Tiger could shoot a sub-60 round.
Woods had scared 59 in each of his first two rounds. Thursday, Tiger was 7-under through 12 holes. Friday, he was 8-under through 12. Saturday, he was 4-under through three.
Woods began the third round birdie-eagle-birdie to move to 19-under for the tournament. It was the third consecutive day he eagled the par-5 2nd. His lead was now eleven, and 59 was certainly in sight. But an errant approach shot led to a bogey at the par-4 4th. Woods' momentum was halted. His round only stalled from there.
Tiger carded 14 consecutive pars to finish the day with a rather routine 67. Still, Woods managed to increase his overnight lead by two shots.
'(I'll take a) big lead any time,' Woods answered when asked if he would rather have a competitive final round or a blowout. 'I've said it again and again, and I will continue to say it.
'Granted, it's more drama for all of you and the people watching when you a finish like we did last week. But I would much rather have it where's it's a lot like the U.S. Open.'
With Tiger matching Old Man Par stroke-for-stroke over the final 14 holes, the rest of the field had a chance to make up some ground - which they failed to do.
Playing side-by-side with Tiger, Mickelson carded only one birdie on the outward half. He picked up three more over his first seven holes on the back nine, but finished bogey - double-bogey to post a 1-under-par 69. In the process, the left-hander relinquished his spot in the final pairing on Sunday to Sutton.
'I putted what I thought was pretty atrociously,' said Mickelson, who used a new flatstick on Saturday. 'To finish the way I did is what's upsetting.it's a sickening feeling.'
Sutton, who defeated Tiger down the stretch at this year's PLAYERS Championship, recorded an ace at the par-3 12th. The 2-time winner in 2000 holed a 5-iron from 188 yards to move to 7-under for the tournament. He then added a pair of birdies over his final two holes to earn his way into the Sunday's final group.
Remember, it was just a week ago at Valhalla, where Sutton missed the cut after limping around the course with an ankle injury.
Only one thing threatened Tiger in the third round - and it wasn't one of the 36 others in the field. At the 15th, Woods tried to swat a wasp out of his putting line. The little fellow took offense and left Mr. Woods a tiny gift in the form of his stinger.
'Right on my finger tip,' said Woods. 'It hurt pretty good, actually. The stinger's still there.'
If you're looking for a reason to watch on Sunday, Woods needs to shoot a 64 for an aggregate of 256. That would be an all-time PGA TOUR record.