Woods displays stroke of genius

In America they call the third round of a tournament Moving Day but nobody was expecting Tiger Woods to be going anywhere today.

In America they call the third round of a tournament Moving Day but nobody was expecting Tiger Woods to be going anywhere today.

The greatest front-runner the game of golf has ever known held a five-stroke halfway lead in the American Express World Golf Championship at The Grove near Watford and it would be one of the shocks of the year if he was not still out in front tonight.

Or, indeed, if he does not collect the first prize of over £680,000 (€1m) tomorrow night.

“There’s something about these world golf events that he seems to like,” said Padraig Harrington with massive under-statement.

“You would think he would lose his motivation, but that doesn’t seem to happen to Tiger.”

The world number one, whose opening rounds of 63 and 64 gave him a 15-under-par aggregate of 127 that was only two shots off the European Tour record, is 36 holes away from a sixth successive stroke play victory.

The last player to beat him was Trevor Immelman at the Western Open in Illinois way back on July 9.

Since finishing second there the 30-year-old has lifted the Open championship, Buick Open, US PGA, Bridgestone Invitational and Deutsche Bank Championship with a combined 86 under par.

Only three of his last 25 rounds have not been in the sixties.

The last two weeks, of course, he has not been so impressive, losing in the first round of the World Match Play at Wentworth and failing to prevent another crushing American defeat in the Ryder Cup.

But he has clicked straight back into stroke play gear on a course which Stewart Cink, joint second with David Howell and Jim Furyk when play resumed today, has already suggested they change the name to “Tiger Woods".

Harrington, six shots back in fifth place, is not surprised Woods had a tougher time the past fortnight and is back in his pomp now.

“When you’re playing match play it’s one shot at a time,” said the Dubliner. “It’s easier to take on somebody who is better than you in a match. You don’t want to play 72 holes.

“You’re going to play an 18-hole match where you can go after it and one bad hole doesn’t mess you up.”

Woods is seeking his 10th win in 15 stroke play World Golf Championships event since their introduction in 1999. He has never finished lower than ninth in them.

As much as he wants another title the 30-year-old is desperate to get on a plane across the Atlantic.

“I’ve done seven out of nine weeks and I just can’t wait to go home. I think the play-offs in baseball are starting Tuesday (he is a Los Angeles Dodgers fan) and I’m really looking forward to that.

“It’s always nice when you have light at the end of the tunnel and you can take a break.

“I’ve two weeks off coming up and I’m looking forward to getting away from the game a little bit.”

Howell might have hoped that his two 66s so far would have put him at least closer to the lead, but with Paul Casey last-but-one of the 60 players left in the tournament the Swindon golfer is on track to regain top spot on the European Order of Merit.

“I think I need to drive it a little bit better if I’m going to be able to put any pressure on Tiger, but I’m delighted with two 66s and two more would be fantastic,” he said.

“I haven’t been in great form for a while and the Ryder Cup’s given me a boost, I guess.

“Coming here I feel like I’m playing at home and the crowds have been fantastic. Coming to a big event straight after may be not ideal for some of the guys, but it gets the juices flowing and we’re back to what we do best, which is play 72-hole golf.”

Nobody does it better than Woods.

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