Stage set for a Tiger PGA Championship repeat at Medinah

When Tiger Woods is staring down a major title after three rounds, he usually closes the deal. (Photo: Getty Images)
When Tiger Woods is staring down a major title after three rounds, he usually closes the deal. (Photo: Getty Images)

Tiger Woods has never lost a major where he's led or been tied for the lead after 54 holes. That fact doesn't bode well for Woods' challengers at the 88th PGA Championship, given he enters Sunday's final round tied for the lead with England's Luke Donald after torching Medinah with a course-record-tying 65.

By T.J. Auclair, Junior Editor

MEDINAH, Ill. -- Few things are as certain as Tiger Woods winning a major where he's led or been tied for the lead after 54 holes. Entering the 88th PGA Championship, the world's No. 1 player is a perfect 11-for-11 in those situations.

After his awesome display of power and precision Saturday at Medinah Country Club, it would be difficult to bet against that mark improving to 12 for 12.

Carving up the longest course in major championship history -- 7,561 yards -- Woods shot a stellar 7-under 65 that tied the best round of the tournament and course record set about an hour earlier by Canada's Mike Weir. At 14 under entering Sunday's final round, Woods was tied with England's Luke Donald, a hometown favorite by virtue of his graduating from nearby Northwestern University, who shot a bogey-free 66. Both were two shots better than Weir.

"It turned out to be a good day after that tee shot I missed [on No. 1] wasn't really so good," Woods said. "I got lucky, made a big putt on the first hole and stuffed it on the second hole, made birdie there and basically should have been probably 1 over par through two and I was 1 under through two. Basically, off and running from there.

"Really thought I hit the ball pretty good after that."

A win by Woods on Sunday would make him the fifth player in PGA Championship history to win the tournament at least three times. Walter Hagan and Jack Nicklaus captured the Wanamaker Trophy fives times, while Gene Sarazen and Sam Snead won three each.

Following his round, Woods was asked if after missing the cut at Winged Foot in the U.S. Open, if he could have imagined he'd be in the position to have a chance to win three tournaments in a row, including two majors.

His response?

"Mm hmm."

Woods added birdies at Nos. 13 and 15 before suffering only his second bogey of the tournament at the par-4 16th -- the first came on his first hole Thursday, the par-5 10th -- but he quickly made up for it with a birdie on No. 17.

Woods and Donald were three ahead of reigning U.S. Open champion Geoff Ogilvy and will play in the final pairing on Sunday. The last 10 PGA Champions have come from the last group in the final round.

"I'm obviously looking forward to it," said Donald, referring to his final-round pairing. "You know, playing with Tiger Woods the last round of a major, especially being in Chicago where I've been living for the last nine years, that's going to be exciting, something I'm going to be looking forward to tomorrow. It's going to be quite a thrill."

With birdies at Nos. 2, 3, 5, 6 and a chip in from the rough at No. 9, the 28-year-old Donald put together a fabulous front-nine 31. That got the Englishman to 13 under par at the turn and gave him a then one-shot advantage over Weir and two better than Shaun Micheel and Woods -- all major champions.

Donald's best finish in a major was a tie for third at the 2005 Masters. He also finished fourth at the 2004 PGA Championship.

"I'm obviously very excited to have shot, a third successive round in the 60s," Donald said. "You know, my second round without a bogey. I felt more comfortable out there today than the first two days with my game. I hit more fairways, more greens and felt pretty much under control. It's always nice when you have that feeling on the golf course. So hopefully it will be like that tomorrow."

He is attempting to become the first European-born player to win the PGA Championship since Scotland's Tommy Armour in 1930. Interestingly, three years after winning the PGA Championship, Armour became the head professional at Medinah.

At one point early in the third round, 10 players were tied for the lead at 8 under par.

Weir became the first Canadian ever to win a major when he edged out Len Mattiace in a two-hole playoff at the 2003 Masters.

"It was a special day, a lot of fun," Weir said about his third round 65. "It was one of those days even when I was aiming away from the flag a little bit, I seemed to either push it right at the flag or pull it stiff.

"It was kind of one of those days it was really going for me."

Before Woods, it was Weir who posted a tournament-best 65 despite taking a bogey on the final hole. In the 1999 PGA Championship at Medinah, Woods and Weir were co-leaders heading into the final round. Of course, Woods went on to win the second of his 11 major championships, while Weir limped in with a frustrating 80 in the final round to tie for 10th.

Don't expect that type of finish from Weir tomorrow. He's definitely battle-tested now, having won seven times on the PGA Tour since that '99 PGA, including that one major.

"It was painful," Weir said, reflecting back on the last time he was in contention at Medinah. "It wasn't a fun day. I remember feeling after about nine holes, just kind of spacey, just kind of spun out. I couldn't believe what was going on. I was very surprised, because actually I remember striking the ball, I was hitting pretty good, but I had no feel on the greens and I remember getting pretty frustrated with a lot of the commotion going on. I think that was just in experience. It was my second year on the Tour. I'd just been back from Q School. I just wasn't ready for it."

Weir would love nothing more than to end Woods' run of success in the majors.

"I know everybody's expectations are that he's going to go out and go win the championship, because he's done it so many times from front," Weir said. "But there's always a time to stop the streak, so hopefully I can do it."

Sergio Garcia, who as a 19 year old finished second to Woods at Medinah in 1999, will go into the final round four shots off the lead at 10 under par with Micheel, the 2003 PGA Champion.

"I guess I do like the course," Garcia said. "I've done well on it, so I don't know whether I can do it. I've been playing well all week. That helps. But tomorrow I've got to go out there and I've got to do it. It's as simple as that. Hopefully I can just play like I've played all week long, hopefully hole a couple of putts here and there and see if we can threaten a little bit on top."

Phil Mickelson, the defending PGA Champion and reigning Masters champion, shot 68 to sit six shots behind the leaders along with British Open runner-up Chris DiMarco.

Early in the day, Joey Sindelar recorded the third double-eagle in PGA Championship history when he holed a 3-wood second shot from 241 yards on the 537-yard par-5 fifth hole.

"Double-eagles are just so different," Sindelar said after shooting a 1-over-par 73. "There's far less chances and far more luck. And there I was begging for it and thinking I'd even take one in a practice round, not get to do it after making the cut at a major at Medinah. How could you ask for better than that?"

It was the first double-eagle recorded in a major championship since 2004, when Gary Evans accomplished the feat in the British Open at Royal Troon in Scotland.

Per-Ulrik Johansson (1995 at Riviera Country Club) and club professional Darrell Kestner (1993 at the Inverness Club) are the only other two players to score an albatross in a PGA Championship.

Jim Kane and Don Yrene were the only two club professionals to make the cut. Both players struggled in the third round. Kane, a 48-year-old who plays out of Oak Tree Country Club in Edmond, Okla., entered Saturday at 2 under par but posted an 8-over-par 80 to fall all the way back to 6 over par for the tournament.

Yrene, the head professional at the Golf Club of Scottsdale, carded a 5-over-par 77 in the third round to fall to 4 over par for the tournament.

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