Tiger revels in regal procession

World No 1 pushes all-comers aside in romping to an almost unassailable six-shot lead as the Ryder Cup catches up with European heroes and rest of the field are left looking highly unamused
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The Independent Online

Queen Victoria was wont to spend her weekends at the Watford stately home that is now The Grove golfing complex and the old girl would undoubtedly have approved of the actions of the head of sporting royalty here yesterday. Anyone dares challenge your authority, look like you're not amused. And if they continue to? Off to Australia with them.

That is where Adam Scott will likely be sent back to today as he attempts to stop Tiger Woods's latest restatement of his majesty. Yesterday, the young man from Adelaide was one of the brave souls who tried in vain to cut into the world No 1's overnight lead in the Amex World Championship tournament here and, indeed, he was the one who fared best of all.

But at the end of a day that had at last threatened to make this World Golf Championship event competitive, Tiger had - incredibly - extended his advantage to six shots at 19 under par. And that adds up to one thing - tournament over. Just like everyone had already said it was on Friday evening. Will we never learn? Tiger loses leads like Gary Player lost golf balls - never.

It had all seemed so possible, though, just a few hours before Woods so tellingly eagled the final hole for the third time in as many days. As his putting spikes rocked under him in the early part of the day, his eventual score of 67 looked beyond him and at one stage, the Englishman David Howell thrilled the home support by getting to within two shots of the uncatchable. But all Howell was doing in fact, was chasing a rainbow. Irresistible perhaps. But futile most definitely.

Which is not to decry Howell, or indeed Padraig Harrington and Henrik Stenson. While the rest of Ian Woosnam's K Club Ryder Cup heroes have flailed around here this week, like boxers the morning after a 15-rounder, these three have stayed resolutely upright and all deserve a continuation of the applause which deafened Co Kildare last weekend.

Howell, for one, has been determination personified as he has played through the pain of a bad neck to make himself the new favourite for the European Tour's Order of Merit title. A top-four placing today will leapfrog him above Paul Casey at the top of the money list, although after 10 holes yesterday he must have been looking even higher than that.

For when Woods - whisper it - three-putted the eighth from 35 feet for just his second bogey of the tournament, Howell's three birdies had taken him to 12 under and within a couple of shots. But then Howell bowed to his exhaustion, Scott finished strongly for his day's best 65 and the stage was left for Woods to blow it or extend it. The latter was inevitable as he soon as he came to the last four to the good.

There is something about this 18th that suits Woods's eye; and when an eye roves the fairways with as much intent as this one does that is some statement. On Thursday and Friday, he had dissected the fairway with his drive but this time was in the rough and surely out of reach. A five-wood swished through the thick stuff soon disabused us all of that notion and when the ball rolled inexorably on to the cut stuff, the 33 feet it had left to the hole took on almost tap-in status. Nobody, nowhere, has ever eagled the same hole in all four days of competition but that is just one of the records he will be chasing today.

The most obvious one will be to lengthen his winning streak in strokeplay events to six. In the week of the death of the greatest streak golfer of all - Byron Nelson who won 11 times in succession in 1945 - that would be apt just as it would be to do it seven days after his ability to play in a team was again brought into question. His individual statistics rarely enjoy so much scrutiny, despite making stupendous reading.

If - when - he wins today this will be his fifth Amex World Golf Championship title in seven years and his 10th individual WGC title out of the 15 he has entered. Furthermore, he has not lost an outright lead he has held after three rounds in five years. As Scott said wryly: "Anyone who beats Tiger from behind is obviously a bit of legend."

When told that his odds were now 1-125, Tiger agreed it might still be a good bet, although he reiterated that he is not really that obsessed with breaking his own WGC low mark of 25 under.

Instead, after sorting out his putting woes in a half-hour session on the practice green immediately following his round - and what other golfer would do that when six clear? - he reflected on yet another day when he overcame everything that was thrown at him. "To putt as badly as I did today and still be able to extend my lead was huge," he said. It was also, almost certainly, decisive.