Magical Olly strides into record book

If the final major of the year was meant to be about Tiger Woods tying Ben Hogan's 1953 feat of winning three successive majors, then no one told a couple of old-timers. Jack Nicklaus overshadowed the world No 1 on Friday and Tom Watson got in on the act in yesterday's third round of the 82nd US PGA Championship.

If the final major of the year was meant to be about Tiger Woods tying Ben Hogan's 1953 feat of winning three successive majors, then no one told a couple of old-timers. Jack Nicklaus overshadowed the world No 1 on Friday and Tom Watson got in on the act in yesterday's third round of the 82nd US PGA Championship.

With no humidity and the course soft, conditions were perfect for scoring. Watson, aged 50, took advantage with a 65 that equalled his best score in the US PGA, the one major he has not won, and the Valhalla course record. Finishing at four under, Watson joked: "It's not really going to scare the leaders."

Even more impressive was Jose Maria Olazabal, who almost immediately set a new course record with a 63, which took the Spaniard to nine under par. Olazabal, who missed the cut last week at the Buick Open with a second-round 81, had started here with a 76 but comfortably made the cut after a 68. Yesterday, he went to the turn in 32 and then birdied the 10th, 12th, 13th, 15th and 16th.

After just missing another birdie chance on the 17th, the Spaniard came to the par-five last with a chance to beat the major championship record of 63. But after laying up with his second shot, his pitch ran past the pin down a swale and Olazabal could only two-putt for his par and a share of history.

"The key today was that I hit a lot of great iron shots and gave myself a lot of birdie chances," said Olazabal. "I thought I had the one at 17. It felt really good but at the very last moment it turned away from the hole."

Others to start well were Phil Mickelson, who went to the turn in 31 to get to nine under, and Davis Love, who was on the same mark after birdies at the second and third. Stuart Appleby was also at nine under after four birdies on the front nine.

Woods, for once, began slowly. His second to the par-five second was pulled left into rough but he still got up and down for his birdie. But his next birdie did not come until the next par five, the seventh, where his eagle putt just shaved the hole. It took Woods to 13 under par, but Scott Dunlap, the closest overnight challenger, remained one stroke behind.

Woods, described by Watson as "supernatural", had birdied the last on Friday to take the halfway lead but for two days at Valhalla, Nicklaus stole the show. Though he may have a few Masters left him in, this was probably his last US PGA, but he would have made the cut by holing a pitch shot at the last. "I knew what I needed to make," he said. "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," Nicklaus added, "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, aged 24, appreciated the significance of the moment. "I was up by the green and had the perfect vantage point to see Jack's little wedge shot," he 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 petty cool.

"It's been quite a couple of day," added Woods, who could become the first player since Denny Shute in 1937 to defend the US PGA title successfully. "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. 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."

Nick Faldo, after an opening 79, and Padraig Harrington, who has been suffering from a neck injury, both scored 69s after making the cut at three over. "I am nine under for the last 32 holes so I must be going in the right direction," said Faldo.

The six-time major winner will take two weeks off before returning to Europe for the start of the Ryder Cup qualifying. But Jesper Parnevik will not be eligible to earn points for the rest of this season after he relinquished his membership of the European Tour. The Swede, a member of the last two Ryder Cup teams, joined late this year after being thrown off last year's Order of Merit for not completing the minimum 11 events after having heart problems.

Like other Ryder Cup players such as Sergio Garcia, Parnevik was unhappy he had to requalify for next week's NEC World Invitational and that the US PGA was not included. Parnevik missed out on a place at Akron and will now not fulfil his 11 this season, so has quit the European Tour. He will have to rejoin next year to be eligible for The Belfry, but his decision makes it more likely he will have to rely on a wild card from Sam Torrance.

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