Woods finished 54 holes at 14-under 202 and was four shots ahead of Canadian rookie Brad Fritsch. It was the 16th time in his PGA Tour career that Woods had a 54-hole lead of at least four shots.
If that wasn’t enough to make the outcome look inevitable, everything was going his way in the final hour.
His tee shot was so far left on No. 2 that the ball finished in the first cut of rough in the sixth fairway. He still saved par. Woods made a birdie putt of about 10 feet on No. 3, and then wound up well right of the cart path and blocked by a tree on the fourth hole. He carved a punch shot around the tree, safely in front of the green, and his chip banged into the pin and dropped for birdie.
Two holes later, from a mangled lie in the right rough, he smashed a 5-wood that ran onto the green and set up a two-putt birdie.
Snedeker was seven shots behind after three rounds, the same deficit he faced a year ago. Only now he’s trying to chase down Woods, already a seven-time winner at Torrey Pines with a daunting record from in front. Woods is 38-2 on the PGA Tour when he has the outright lead going into the last round.
“I’ve got to make some more birdies,” Snedeker said. “I’ve got a long way to go. I did a great job today of staying patient and playing good golf.”
Woods didn’t bother wearing red Sunday, knowing the tournament wouldn’t end until the next day.
In some respects, though, it had the feeling of being over. Fritsch birdied the last hole of the third round for a 70 to finish on 206. Erik Compton finished birdie-eagle for a 71 and was alone in third through 54 holes, five shots behind. When someone asked him about chasing Woods, Compton started laughing.
“I’m trying to chase myself,” he said.
Woods has won seven times at Torrey Pines as a pro, including a U.S. Open, and another win Monday would give him the most wins on any course. He also has seven wins at Bay Hill and Firestone. Sam Snead won the Greater Greensboro Open eight times, but only four times on one course.
Woods attributed his lead to “the whole package.”
“I’ve driven the ball well, I’ve hit my irons well, and I’ve chipped and putted well,” he said. “Well, I’ve hit good putts. They all haven’t gone in.”
Woods had superb control of his tee shots and was rarely out of position on a day that began under a light drizzle and soon gave way to patchy clouds and clear views of the Pacific surf below the bluffs.
Starting with a two-shot lead, he stretched that quickly with a tap-in birdie on the second hole and a beautiful tee shot to a left pin on the downhill par 3 to about 4 feet. The South Course played even longer with the soft conditions, and only seven players broke 70. Aaron Baddeley had the lowest score of the round with a 68.
Woods managed to stretch his lead with pars, though he was always on the attack because of his position in the fairway.
He missed a downhill birdie putt from 4 feet on the par-5 ninth, and then came back with a wedge that landed near the hole at No. 10 and spun back next to the cup before it settled 4 feet away for a birdie putt that he made.