At a different kind of major, Woods remains the same

Winning the PGA is going to require another low round, says Tiger Woods. (Photo: AP)
Winning the PGA is going to require another low round, says Tiger Woods. (Photo: AP)

This birdie-filled PGA Championship will go down as a rarity, but it shares one trait with many other majors -- Tiger Woods atop the leader board with one round to go. Even more rare would be an ending without him holding the trophy.

MEDINAH, Ill. (AP) -- The PGA Championship has rarely looked so easy.

With Tiger Woods atop the leader board, winning the final major of the year could still be as hard as ever.

His final birdie Saturday came on the par-3 17th hole, a 12-foot putt that nearly spun out of the side of the cup. Woods was walking to the hole when he stopped, sighed when it dropped, then pointed his finger at the cup as if reminding his golf ball to behave.

It led to a 7-under 65, matching the course record at Medinah.

And it left him tied at the top with British-born Luke Donald, who knows as well as anyone that Woods is 11-0 when he has at least a share of the 54-hole lead in the majors.

"His numbers are obviously impressive and that's why he's the best player in the world," Donald said after his 66. "He knows that just playing his game is going to be good enough, usually."

But this is a new game for Woods.

The notion of par being a good score in the Grand Slam events was laughable at Medinah, where soft greens have allowed Woods, Donald and everyone else to take dead aim at the flag, forcing them to make birdies simply to stay in the hunt.

Both made their share to finish at 14-under 202, matching the record in relation to par for this major. David Toms led at 14-under 196 when he won the PGA Championship five years ago in Atlanta.

"Most majors ... you're just trying to survive and make pars," Woods said. "Tomorrow, I think anyone who wants to win this championship has to make some birdies."

Mike Weir made nine of them and also shot 65, putting him two shots behind at 204. U.S. Open champion Geoff Ogilvy recovered from a double bogey on his first hole to shoot 68 and was at 11-under 205. Another shot behind was Sergio Garcia, runner-up to Woods at Medinah seven years ago, and former PGA champion Shaun Micheel.

Whatever the case, all eyes are on Woods.

"It's going to take a low round, because you know Tiger is playing flawless golf," Micheel said. "He's going to be a tough man to catch."

Woods soared into the lead with a string of splendid shots, starting with a 3-iron from 250 yards over Lake Kadijah to 6 feet on the par-3 13th. Then came a bunker shot to 2 feet on the par-5 14th, and a 9-iron from a sand-filled divot to 3 feet on the 15th.

All that went wrong was a three-putt bogey on the next hole, ending his streak of 50 holes at par or better. But he bounced back with the birdie on the 17th, and Donald matched his birdie with a 6-iron into 4 feet.

"In most major championships, you make pars and sprinkle in a couple of birdies here and there and you're looking pretty good," Woods said. "Today you would have just been run over, which is different."

On Sunday, Woods will try to become the first player in the 90-year history of the PGA Championship to win twice on the same course, having captured the Wanamaker Trophy in 1999 by hanging on against Garcia.

The third round was full throttle.

Woods and Donald watched the early round on television and saw plenty of birdies, knowing what they had to do.

"It looked like it could be had out there," Woods said. "I felt like I had to go get it."

But for all his birdies, perhaps the most important putt of the day was for par.

Woods started his round by spraying a 3-wood deep in the trees on the right, and his punch shot clipped branches before settling into thick rough well short of the green. All he could do was pound a wedge 35 feet by the hole.

After studying the line halfway between the ball and his hole, his par putt dropped on the final turn and Woods slammed his fist. He followed that with a tee shot that never left the flag as it sailed over Lake Kadijah and settled 7 feet away for birdie.

"I was off and running," Woods said.

Copyright 2006 Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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