Woods Shoots 68 To Pull Away At Doral

Saturday, March 24th 2007, 6:07 pm
By: News On 6

MIAMI (AP) _ Tiger Woods set the tone early with a 4-iron that cut through the stiff wind and landed 10 feet away for eagle. He kept everyone at a distance Saturday by avoiding calamity on the Blue Monster's brutal closing hole. And when the third round ended, it looked as though no one had a spitting chance.

With only one mistake on a windy day filled with them, Woods shot 4-under 68 and stretched his lead to four shots in the CA Championship, leaving him poised to capture his third straight title at Doral and send him to the Masters on a high.

About the only intrigue came from Sergio Garcia.

Disgusted by missing yet another short putt, the 27-year-old Spaniard tapped in for a three-putt bogey and then spit into the cup. Garcia didn't deny this lapse in etiquette, only its effect on the guys playing behind him.

``I just missed the putt and I wasn't too happy,'' Garcia told NBC Sports. ``Don't worry. It did go in the middle (of the cup) and wasn't going to affect anyone else. If it did, I would have wiped it off.''

Asked about the incident after the TV interview, he snapped, ``I just said it. I'm not going to repeat it.''

Garcia wound up with a 71 and was seven shots behind, but he had plenty of company.

Woods again wiped out the field with superb shots and by making enough putts to reach 11-under 205. He is 38-3 on the PGA Tour with at least a share of the 54-hole lead, and he has never lost when leading by more than one.

Brett Wetterich had a 67 and will play in the final group Sunday.

Along with owning Doral, Woods has won this World Golf Championship the last two years (in San Francisco and London), and five out of seven times. He will be trying to win his 13th WGC event since the series began in 1999.

``If you're leading, usually you're playing halfway decent,'' Woods said. ``Hopefully, tomorrow I can handle my business.''

He headed to the practice green to work on his putting, then was off to Key Biscayne to watch Roger Federer play his opening match in the Sony Ericsson Open.

Nick O'Hern, who ended Woods' seven-tournament winning streak on the PGA Tour by beating him in the Accenture Match Play Championship a month ago, played bogey-free for a 66 and was another shot behind at 6-under 210.

Everyone else had their chances. Most everyone else ran into trouble.

Ernie Els got to within one shot of the lead midway through the round until he quit making birdies, then took double bogey on the 18th hole that started with an errant drive and ended with a bunker shot that went over the green. He had to settle for a 71, and for the third straight day, the Big Easy refused to speak to reporters.

Els was in the group at 211 that included Vijay Singh (69), Thomas Bjorn (71), Aaron Baddeley (71) and Charles Howell III, whose bogey on the final hole ruined a spirited rally and left him with a 71.

Bjorn, one of the few players to take down Woods on the final day, was told he was in a good position.

``Yeah, with everyone else,'' he said, grinning. ``When he's like this ... he hit some incredible shots. There's not many players in the field that can hit those shots. We all know when he's at his best, he's very difficult.''

Woods had a two-shot lead that he quickly expanded with his eagle putt, although there it was close for a minute. His streak of 29 holes without a bogey ended on the sixth, and with Wetterich and Els making a move, the lead was down to one.

Woods fixed that quickly. He hit a 9-iron about 10 feet right of the flag on No. 7, and after having to lay up from out of the rough on the par-5 eighth, his sand wedge stopped 3 feet from the cup to reach 10 under and restore the cushion.

Wetterich, who went out in 32, was the only one who stayed steady on the back nine in a mixture of showers and sunshine, and the constant present of a strong wind. He followed a bogey on the 15th with a birdie on the 16th. He sent his drive well to the right on the 18th, but was able to reach the green and two-putt from 65 feet.

His only victory was the Byron Nelson Championship last year during a hot summer stretch that helped him make the Ryder Cup team. But he's one of the longest hitters in golf, and is not afraid to fire at flags.

That's what Wetterich might have to do.

``You can't sit back and be happy with making pars,'' he said.

Wetterich has never played with Woods in competition. In fact, he had never met the world's No. 1 player until Woods introduced himself to him at Firestone last year, then took all the Ryder Cup rookies to dinner.