Delighted Tiger Woods hits his stride in Masters build-up

 

doral

For all his major championships, 14, and PGA tour victories, 75, Tiger Woods has never before breached 22 birdies in three rounds. That is until he racked up another seven at the WGC-Cadillac Championship here yesterday to add to the 17 he drained in the opening two.

So, at the age of 37, and with a resume second only to one, Jack Nicklaus, Woods breaks new ground here. He even left a ball in a palm tree at the penultimate hole, which cost him a one-shot penalty, and still signed for a 67. Given that he began his third round like a comet, posting a hat-trick of birdies first up, a four-shot lead going into the final round today might be interpreted as underachievement.

Woods claims to be hitting it further than he ever has and the evidence of a career-low 75 putts in 54 holes points to the re-establishing of lethal habits on the greens. Victory today would take his total of WGC wins to 17 and shorten the odds still further for the Masters. Woods has never surrendered a lead of such magnitude on a Sunday. Yes, the world of golf is in full Tiger hype mode, an orientation that will not alter in the run-up to Augusta.

"I'm excited about the way I'm playing, hitting the ball well and making some putts," Woods said. "I'm hitting the ball so much further. I haven't hit my irons this far ever. I've had to make some adjustments on my distance control but all the hard work has paid off. We will see how the course plays tomorrow, see how fiery it is. The wind picked up today and the greens dried out. It is nice to have a lead in tricky conditions."

Two eagles, one at the first, the second a chip-in at 16, helped keep Graeme McDowell in the final group with Woods after a 69. "He was very impressive," McDowell said of Woods. "Just very, very solid, controlling his golf ball like he did when he was winning his 14 majors."

Behind them, one shot further back, lurks Phil Mickelson and Steve Stricker. Rory McIlroy's renaissance continued with a 71, an eventful round that included five birdies in six holes on the back nine and, for the second successive day, a three-putt at the last.

McIlroy fairly skipped into the weekend buoyed by the sight of a golf ball behaving as he intended. He admitted that his confidence had never been as low as it was last week and was relieved to have turned a corner. "I had a really good range session and felt like I hit the ball better. I saw a lot of positives. You go through these periods in golf where you have a tough time and things don't click. It would be great if it wasn't like that and would make the game a lot easier, but I saw a lot of good signs which shows that I'm going in the right direction."

His routing at Doral saw him paired yesterday with Ernie Els, his playing partner on that fateful afternoon nine days ago when he walked out of the Honda Classic halfway through his second round. The mood was noticeably lighter than the last time they met, with plenty of banter before the start of their round.

McIlroy went first, producing a fine strike that ended a little unluckily on a downslope in the first cut where the fairway narrows to its smallest. He still had a putt for birdie. At the second McIlroy hit a free-flowing three-wood down the left side. Though his approach held up in the wind, dropping marginally short of the putting surface, he chipped dead for par.

Another peach of a drive at the third validated McIlroy's sense of improvement. The test would come with the first mistake. It was imminent. The wind was getting up. He hit his approach clean but with too much club. His ball caught the side of the green and rolled away into the greenside valley. Frustration quickly resurfaced. A deep breath would have helped. Instead McIlroy rushed the chip, leaving it short of the green. A bogey out of nothing, yet out of everything, was the result.

He carried that disappointment to the fourth, a 220-yard par-three with water hooking around the green from the right. McIlroy found it, his tee shot landing marginally the wrong side of the banking and sliding inexorably into the drink. Playing three and clearly raging, he duffed another chip and missed his bogey putt for a double. Three shots gone in two holes and carelessness at the root of the problem.

What Els would have given for McIlroy's grandeur with a driver in his hand. He barely found a fairway on the outward nine and was forced into envious cries of "beauty" as McIlroy repeatedly aced the ether. He creamed another at five but was long with his approach. At the sixth he finally capitalised, hitting his iron to eight feet and sinking the putt for a first birdie for the round. Sometime soon McIlroy will put it all together and mulch the field in a big one. Until that moment is upon us, buckle your seat belt.

Voices
Lucerne’s Hotel Château Gütsch, one of the lots in our Homeless Veterans appeal charity auction
charity appeal
Life and Style
A woman walks by a pandal art installation entitled 'Mars Mission' with the figure of an astronaut during the Durga Puja festival in Calcutta, India
techHow we’ll investigate the existence of, and maybe move in with, our alien neighbours
Arts and Entertainment
Tony Hughes (James Nesbitt) after his son Olly disappeared on a family holiday in France
tv
News
people

Jo from Northern Ireland was less than impressed by Russell Brand's attempt to stage a publicity stunt

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
Nabil Bentaleb (centre) celebrates putting Tottenham ahead
footballTottenham 4 Newcastle 0: Spurs fans dreaming of Wembley final after dominant win
Arts and Entertainment
The Apprentice candidates Roisin Hogan, Solomon Akhtar, Mark Wright, Bianca Miller, Daniel Lassman
tvReview: But which contestants got the boot?
Arts and Entertainment
Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels ride again in Dumb and Dumber To
filmReview: Dumb And Dumber To was a really stupid idea
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Ian McKellen tempts the Cookie Monster
tvSir Ian McKellen joins the Cookie Monster for a lesson on temptation
News
i100
Travel
Tourists bask in the sun beneath the skyscrapers of Dubai
travelBritish embassy uses social media campaign to issue travel advice for festive holiday-makers in UAE
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas
La Famille Bélier is being touted as this year's Amelie - so why are many in the deaf community outraged by it?

Deaf community outraged by La Famille Bélier

The new film tells the story of a deaf-mute farming family and is being touted as this year's Amelie
10 best high-end laptops

10 best high-end laptops

From lightweight and zippy devices to gaming beasts, we test the latest in top-spec portable computers
Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

The batsman has grown disillusioned after England’s Ashes debacle and allegations linking him to the Pietersen affair
Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

The Williams driver has had plenty of doubters, but hopes she will be judged by her ability in the cockpit
Calls for a military mental health 'quality mark'

Homeless Veterans campaign

Expert calls for military mental health 'quality mark'
Racton Man: Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman

Meet Racton Man

Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman
Garden Bridge: St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters

Garden Bridge

St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters
Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament: An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel

Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament

An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel
Joint Enterprise: The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice

Joint Enterprise

The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice
Freud and Eros: Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum: Objects of Desire

Freud and Eros

Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum
France's Front National and the fear of a ‘gay lobby’ around Marine Le Pen

Front National fear of ‘gay lobby’

Marine Le Pen appoints Sébastien Chenu as cultural adviser