The South Course at Firestone Country Club is playing tougher on Sunday, but 54-hole leader Tiger Woods is steadily making his way through the setup to maintain a comfortable seven-shot margin.
Woods will win, and win by a lot, but he certainly wanted to avoid an ugly Sunday round going into next week's PGA Championship, his last shot at a major in 2013. Sunday's round has started with a cruise control outward nine of 35, as Woods has avoided the blow-up hole in Akron.
Woods opened his round with nine straight pars. He's been unable to pull the array of shots he displayed the past two days, but again, the course isn't exactly yielding tons of red numbers. Tiger could shoot over par and still win comfortably, but he hasn't really come close to making a bogey and giving a shot back to the field. He's been putting his approach shots in the middle of the greens, setting up easy two-putt pars. And when he has missed, he's done so in the right spots, getting up-and-down for relatively stress-free saves.
It's pretty vintage Tiger, who has always stormed out to 36- and 54-hole leads and then coasted on Sundays to keep the rest of the field at a distance. The Y.E. Yang chase down at the 2009 PGA Championship is the one instance where Woods shockingly failed to close, and that's often cited as a line of demarcation between the "old" and "new" Tiger. Regardless, an easy weekend at Firestone is just what Woods needed to erase the shakiness from Sunday at the British Open. Unless Tiger gets injured or falls in the pond at No. 16, he'll enter next week's PGA Championship coming off a victory for the eighth time in his career.
Three players, Webb Simpson, Billy Horschel, and Russell Henley, are in the clubhouse with 4-under rounds of 66. That appears to be the ceiling on Sunday at Firestone, so no one is going to come close to making things tight for Tiger. The fact that 48 of the top 50 players in the world are on hand in Akron just makes Tiger's runaway win that much more impressive. Keegan Bradley, Jason Dufner, and Luke Donald are a few of the big names playing for second as the final groups hit the back nine on Sunday. Here's a current snapshot of the leaderboard coming down the stretch:
|T3||Miguel A. Jimenez||-7||11|