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Woods Extends Western Advantage

LEMONT, Ill. -- Tiger Woods continued his fine play at Cog Hill with a 7-under 65 in Saturday's third round to open a more than comfortable advantage at the 100th Western Open. Woods moved to 18-under-par 198, a new 54-hole tournament record, and owns a six-shot lead over Chris Kresge and Robert Allenby.
Woods, already a three-time champion this year, is poised to win his third Western Open. With talks of a slump brushed aside after a course record-tying 63 in the opening round, Woods took to the course Saturday with a slim margin but soon found himself in the driver's seat.
'Well, I think I got off to a decent start,' said Woods. 'I hit the ball really well starting out, and on top of that I made everything.'
He dropped his tee shot inside four feet at the par-3 second for an early birdie and made it two in a row with a birdie at the third after his approach landed six feet from the cup.
At the par-5 fifth, Woods muscled his second shot from the rough to three feet and converted the short eagle putt to stand five clear of the field. The top-ranked player in the world kept on rolling with a birdie at the sixth and ran home a 12-foot putt for a birdie at the seventh to reach 17-under.
Woods missed the green at the eighth and could not get up and down to save par. The dropped shot was soon recovered, however, with a 15-foot birdie at the ninth.
'Any time you can come right back with a birdie, it just feels like it automatically erases what you've just done,' said Woods. 'You messed up but then you erase it by making birdie the next hole and then we start again. That's awfully nice when you can do that.'
After going out in 30 on the Dubsdread Course, Woods hit his third shot over a greenside bunker at the par-5 11th and watched as his ball stopped three feet from the hole to set up his sixth birdie of the day.
Woods faltered on the green at the 13th with a three-putt bogey and the 27-year-old struggled again at the par-3 14th after an errant tee shot led to a second straight dropped shot.
Thankfully for Woods, he had the par-5 15th to recover. After his second shot found a greenside bunker, Woods hit out to three feet and tapped in for birdie.
Woods' drive missed the fairway at the 17th but he managed a brilliant second shot that found itself within 10 feet of the cup. He confidently sank the birdie putt to stand 18 holes away from heading to the third major of the season on a high note.
'I've got to go out there and play one shot at a time,' said Woods. 'It's a whole cliche but it's very apropos. You have to do that in order to win championships. I'm just going to take it one step at a time.'
Woods, who is seeking his 38th career victory on the PGA Tour, has won 28 of the 30 events in which he's held at least a share of the lead heading into the final round.
'I've always enjoyed being ahead, and on top of that, if you're ahead and you go out there and shoot the same score, you automatically win,' said Woods. 'If you are ahead and you make a couple mistakes, at least you have that lead and the cushion to right the ship and get it right back and you can still win the tournament.'
Kresge was two shots behind Woods to start the third round and struggled to keep pace with two birdies over his first nine holes. Despite his solid play that featured a chip-in birdie at the 12th, Kresge still found himself well behind the leader.
With Woods' back-to-back bogeys on the back side, Kresge saw himself slowly working his way back into the tournament but the 34-year-old wasn't able to capitalize.
He bogeyed the 14th but countered with a seven-foot birdie at the following hole to pull briefly within five of Woods en route to a round of 69.
'Sometimes it can suck you along with him, and I felt like I needed to keep going if I wanted to stay within earshot of the guy,' said Kresge. 'There's still a lot of golf left. Obviously he's won a lot of tournaments and knows how to dot it, but I'm going to go out and do my own thing and try to make a bunch of birdies and get close.'
Allenby didn't make his move until the inward half after carding nine consecutive pars to start his round. He tallied a birdie at the par-4 10th and reached 11-under with birdies at 12 and 15.
At the par-4 18th, Allenby hit a 7-iron within a foot of the hole for a tap-in birdie.
'I played pretty good,' said the Australian, who titled here in 2000. 'Tee-to- green I played very well, maybe a little scrappy early in the round, but I got it going towards sort of the later part of the front nine, but I couldn't get the putts in.'
Reigning PGA Champion Rich Beem finished seven shots off the pace at 11-under-par 205 after a round of 65. He was followed by Masters winner Mike Weir, Glen Day and defending champion Jerry Kelly at 10-under-par 206.
Phil Mickelson carded a 68 and move to 9-under-par 207. He was joined by Tom Byrum and Robert Damron in a tie for eighth.
Related Links:
  • Full Coverage of the 100th Western Open
  • 100th Western Open Leaderboard