There are still 11 holes to play, but on Monday afternoon, Tiger Woods will win the Farmers Insurance Open for the seventh time in his career. It will be his eighth win on the South Course at Torrey Pines, and his 75th career victory.
Woods carries a six-shot lead into Monday, when the final round will resume at 2:10 p.m. ET. But this tournament appeared over early in the third round on Sunday, when Woods started throwing darts at the flagsticks and everyone around him failed to make a move. It's been the classic path to victory for Woods -- get the lead heading into the weekend and then dominate the par-5s to extend the margin while the rest of the competition crumbles.
Tiger appeared vulnerable for one short stretch on Sunday afternoon, when he carded his first ever bogey on the par-5 18th hole and then got wild off the tee at the start of his fourth round. But even that wildness, in which he missed the first five fairways, didn't lead to dropped shots. Instead, Woods scrambled and actually made three birdies in his first six holes to add two more shots to his comfortable lead.
This dominance comes after a week of mild concern when Woods made his 2013 debut with a missed cut in Abu Dhabi. The MC involved a bit of a technicality as Woods fell on the wrong side of the cut line after he was assessed a two-shot penalty at the end of his round. But he was still not sharp in his two-day stay in the Middle East.
Any concerns have been completely erased this week, with what is likely his most impressive performance since 2008. The short stretch on Sunday night notwithstanding, Woods has been relatively steady off the tee. Sure, he's missing fairways, but he's also had stretches where he's absolutely bombed it down the middle. The rough for this regular tour stop at Torrey is not particularly penal, either, and Woods is clearly comfortable playing in from either the short or long grass.
But the biggest reason why he'll start his PGA Tour season with a win for the sixth time in his career is his short game. Woods has been masterful with wedges in hand, playing from 130 yards and in. He started the week a perfect four-for-four in sand saves, highlighted by an eagle chip-in out of the bunker on No. 6 in his opening round. He bookended that last night with another chip-in for birdie on No. 4. Those two chip-ins will be part of the highlight reel, but there have been countless other wedge and sand shots that have nearly gone in, as Tiger repeatedly throws the ball into the middle of the green and spins it back inside five feet.
The short-game work has resulted in multiple tap-in birdies this week, but he certainly hasn't been off with the putter, either. Woods is clinical on the California poa annua greens, which can be the most unpredictable and difficult to read on tour. He methodically lagged several putts on Sunday to avoid three-putt bogeys and keep the rest off the field at a multi-shot deficit.
Nick Watney and Brandt Snedeker, two of the other top players in the field, have bubbled up into second place. They would typically be worthy chasers of Woods, but with a six-shot lead, it's academic at this point. Tiger has three par-5s still ahead of him on Monday, which should add to the margin. The only drama left is whether or not he can exceed the eight-shot margin of victory he set here in 2008. CBS requested that the finish be pushed back to the afternoon, and Jim Nantz and crew will surely have the superlatives ready to fete Woods on his 11-hole march to victory. It could be just the beginning of a huge 2013 season.
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