Golden exit line for the Bear

If the final major championship of the year was meant to be about Tiger Woods and his attempt at tying Ben Hogan's feat of winning three majors in a row, then no one told Jack Nicklaus. Woods duly took a one-stroke lead into yesterday's third round of the 82nd USPGA Championship at Valhalla. The world No 1 also held the halfway lead at the US Open, by six shots, and at the Open, when he was in front by three. "There you go," Woods said. "Six, three, one. I'm getting old, going downhill." It took a birdie at the final hole of the second round for Woods to move ahead of Scott Dunlap, who held a three-stroke advantage himself over three more Americans - Davis Love, J.P.Hayes and Fred Funk. A five-under 67, following his 66 of the opening day, left Woods at 11 under par. But his four at the 18th only matched the birdie from Nicklaus that stole all the attention.

If the final major championship of the year was meant to be about Tiger Woods and his attempt at tying Ben Hogan's feat of winning three majors in a row, then no one told Jack Nicklaus. Woods duly took a one-stroke lead into yesterday's third round of the 82nd USPGA Championship at Valhalla. The world No 1 also held the halfway lead at the US Open, by six shots, and at the Open, when he was in front by three. "There you go," Woods said. "Six, three, one. I'm getting old, going downhill." It took a birdie at the final hole of the second round for Woods to move ahead of Scott Dunlap, who held a three-stroke advantage himself over three more Americans - Davis Love, J.P.Hayes and Fred Funk. A five-under 67, following his 66 of the opening day, left Woods at 11 under par. But his four at the 18th only matched the birdie from Nicklaus that stole all the attention.

Woods and Nicklaus, along with Vijay Singh, were paired together for the first two days, the first time they had played alongside each other in competition. As Dunlap, who has played all round the world but never before at the sharp end of a major, discovered yesterday, most players find it difficult to play with Woods. Singh, the Masters champion, missed the cut. The one person who did not look as if he was intimidated, however, was the 60-year-old Nicklaus.

This is the last year Nicklaus will play in all four majors. It was almost certainly his last appearance in the USPGA, which he won five times. He has suggested this might have been his last major championship but no one believes he won't turn up at Augusta for a few more Masters yet. He was 54th at Augusta this year but missed the cut at both the Opens, receiving standing ovations at the conclusion of his second rounds at Pebble Beach and St Andrews. Another followed at Valhalla. After the death of is mother, Helen, on Wednesday, Nicklaus shot a 77 in the opening round but on Friday birdied the first two holes.

Coming to the last, Nicklaus needed a three to make the cut. "I knew what I needed to make," he said. For his third shot, he had a pitch with a sand wedge from 72 yards. The ball pitched past the hole and almost spun back in, leaving a short putt for birdie. "The wind was in my face and I said, 'hit it just behind the hole and I think it will come back down the hill a little bit'. It did. It was nice to make a birdie on the last hole, if it is going to be my last hole in a major championship. It may or may not be, I don't know. Certainly, it was a nice way to end the year."

Woods, who had fallen into a tie for the lead by three-putting the 17th for his only bogey of the round, was buried in the front bunker in two but came out to 15 feet and holed the putt. But while he knew the importance of taking sole possession of the lead, the 24-year-old also appreciated the significance of the moment for his playing partner.

"I was up by the green and had the perfect vantage point to see Jack's little wedge shot," Woods said. "And everybody up the embankment, the sun setting, it was kind of neat to look at the sight and take it all in. When he hit it, I didn't watch the shot, I watched him swing. I said, 'that is perfect rhythm, it's going to be pretty good'. I don't know how it didn't go in. It was pretty cool."

Woods, who could become the first player since Denny Shute in 1937 to defend the USPGA title successfully, added: "It's been quite a couple of days. I enjoyed playing with Jack and it was great for me. Nobody even noticed what I was doing."

Apart, that is, from the other contenders who had to look up at his name at the top of the leaderboard yet again. "Tiger not only has the ability to be so much better than the other guys," Nicklaus said, "but the others are not sure they can win. That is a big factor. But what I enjoyed about watching Tiger was how he played within himself and made it look very, very easy.

"He is doing it with so much more power to use. I don't think I have ever seen anybody do what he is doing so much within himself. Obviously, I knew he was good. Every time I turned on the television, he made a putt. But I had never watched him play, other than in a practice round, and I think he is better than I thought he was. I was pleasantly surprised with that.

"And, of course, he is a pleasant young man to play with. He couldn't have been nicer. He has a good sense of humour and enjoys to joke around a bit. I think the baton passed a long time ago but it couldn't pass to a nicer young man who is obviously the cream of the crop right now by a mile."

The only player other than Woods with a major title within seven strokes of the lead was Love. The USPGA champion from Winged Foot in 1997 bogeyed the last two holes as players continued into the darkness to try to finish their rounds.

A storm had delayed the round by an hour but the pace of play was quicker than on Thursday, although where players and officials get the idea that five hours for a threeball is acceptable is a mystery. Eleven players had to finish their second rounds yesterday morning with Notah Begay, Woods's old college room-mate, joining Bob May at six under.

The cut was confirmed at three over, with 15 Europeans qualifying, including Nick Faldo and Padraig Harrington, who started the week with a neck problem, right on the mark.

Faldo scored a 68 after his 79 on Thursday. Darren Clarke, who birdied the last two holes, and Thomas Bjorn were the leading Europeans at four under. "I had a few chances early on but lost momentum," Clarke said after a 72. "I've got to not make any more mistakes and try and make lots of birdies."

News
peopleFrankie Boyle responds to referendum result in characteristically offensive style
Arts and Entertainment
Highs and lows of the cast's careers since 2004
News
news
New Articles
i100... with this review
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
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

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam