Ross: Woods approaches 75th victory in control of entire game

January 27, 2013
Helen Ross,

LA JOLLA, Calif. -- Hard to believe there's anything Tiger Woods hasn't done at Torrey Pines.

After all, he's won the Farmers Insurance Open there six times; the U.S. Open once. His scoring average on these two scenic courses that meander along the cliffs beside the Pacific Ocean is an eye-popping 68.62.

But Woods, who is 98 under for his six victories, has never posted all four rounds in the 60s. The way he's playing this week, though, it's looking more and more like Woods can cross that off his golfing bucket list, too.

The world No. 2 has been near-flawless this week, and he's opened a six-stroke lead at 17 under as a result. Woods, who played 25 holes on a marathon Sunday, will return to Torrey Pines at 2:10 p.m. ET to see if he can finish off what many feel is inevitable and convert his 50th third-round lead into a 75th win.

Woods, who has 11 holes remaining, has hit on all cylinders this week, the work he's done with Sean Foley appearing to be firmly cemented in his psyche and on vivid display. When Brandt Snedeker and Nick Watney threatened to cut into his advantage early during the final round, Woods was ready, answering with three birdies in a four-hole stretch to show them how it's done.

Woods won three times last year, breaking a victory drought that had stretched to more than 30 months. But this week, even more than at Bay Hill or Muirfield Village or Congressional a year ago, he has seemed like his former self, the one who was the most feared competitor in the game before injuries and swing changes intervened.

"I think it's probably the whole package," Woods agreed.

With the exception of two lapses at the start of the final round, Woods "drove it on a string" Sunday and those pinpoint irons have left plenty of birdie opportunities. Ditto for the chip Woods hit "up the gut" for an emphatic birdie at the fourth hole after coming up just short with his escape shot around one of the craggy pines.

All in all, his mission was accomplished. Woods will break out that trademark red shirt for the San Diego fans in the unusual afternoon finish on the East Coast that could bring CBS and the Golf Channel a ratings surprise.

"I had the lead, and the whole idea was to build on my lead, and I've done that so far," Woods said. "I've got to do it again tomorrow."

Of course, Watney and Snedeker, among others, could have a say in what happens.

Snedeker, though, made a successful title defense more difficult when he went from a share of the first-round lead to a 75 on Friday. The reigning FedExCup champion made up ground with a 69 Sunday morning but is running out of holes after playing 13 in the fourth round in 4 under.

"I've got to make some more birdies," said Snedeker, who was eyeing a 10-footer when the horn sounded and opted to give it a go on Monday. "I've got a long way to go. I've got a guy at the top of the leaderboard that doesn't like giving up leads, so I have to go catch him.

"I did a great job today of staying patient and playing good golf."

Watney did, too. The 2009 champion of the Farmers Insurance Open stumbled on the back nine in the third round, making three bogeys in his last eight holes to shoot 71. But he shook it off and came back out to birdie three of his first four holes to get back in the lead pack.

"All we can do tomorrow is go out and try to make him think about it a little bit and see what happens," said Watney, who'll be hitting his drive on the par-5 ninth. "All I can do is I'm going to try to make as many birdies as I can. I've got 11 and 12 that are tough, and hopefully, maybe he can help me out a little bit, I don't know.

"But I can't just hand it to him, as a competitor. So we'll come out and see how close we can get."