September 23, 2018: The anticipation continues to build as we inch ever closer to an 80th PGA TOUR victory for a certain Tiger Woods. The 14-time major winner splashed six birdies over the first seven holes on Saturday to leave the field in his wake at the East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta. Woods’ second 65 this week helped him take a three-stroke lead over Justin Rose and Rory McIlroy in the TOUR Championship.
Rose worked his way back from a couple of early bogeys in the third round, eventually posting two under 68 to remain firmly in contention to win the FedExCup. He is assured of the season-ending honours with a top three finish, irrespective of other results.
McIlroy has played some of his best golf this season over the tour finale. And a 66 on Saturday helped him into a share of the second spot alongside world No.1 Rose. But the attention is firmly on Tiger, who is enjoying the most promising week of his latest comeback.
Since missing the cut at the US Open, Woods has four top 10s to show for his comeback from four back surgeries. An ordeal that began in 2014 might soon take Tiger within two victories of emulating Sam Snead.
After a drought stretching back to the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational in 2013, East Lake is wet and wild with the excitement of a Tiger victory on Sunday. If he carries the advantage, as he has on 23 of 23 previous occasions when he held a lead of three or more, it promises to rain new riches on an already wealthy sport.
As he was binging on birdies through the first third of his third round, the roars got increasingly louder from the swelling crowds. They follow Tiger like a bunch of mesmerised beings trailing a pied piper. The golf world is itching to see a triumphant Tiger, so much so that any another result might be a huge disappointment.
The odds are good. Tiger has taken victory 53 times out of 57 when he had a share of the lead or better going into the final round. In 2007, Woods turned a three-stroke lead into an eight-shot victory at the TOUR Championship in 2007.
“I would love to be able to win this event,” Woods said, “but I’ve got a bunch of guys behind me that have been playing well. We’ll see what happens.”
We are all waiting to see what happens.
Tiger Woods 65-68-65—198 (-12)
Rory McIlroy 67-68-66—201 (-9)
Justin Rose 66-67-68—201 (-9)
Kyle Stanley 69-68-67—204 (-6)
Jon Rahm 68-68-68—204 (-6)
Paul Casey 68-71-66—205 (-5)
Tony Finau 67-71-67—205 (-5)
Billy Horschel 71-65-69—205 (-5)