He led by as many as six strokes in the third round until Fritsch birdied the last hole and Woods, playing in the group behind, ran into trouble. His tee shot rolled up near the lip of the bunker, and he advanced it 70 yards into deep rough. He swung hard through the thick, wet grass into a greenside bunker, and then missed his 8-foot par putt.
Still, it was an ominous sign.
One week after he missed the cut in Abu Dhabi — thanks to a two-shot penalty he received after his round for taking relief from an embedded lie on the fifth hole when the rules didn’t allow for it — he looked as good as ever.
“As I said, I didn’t play that poorly,” Woods said of his short week in the Middle East. “I played well enough to be there on the weekend, and could have gotten two more rounds competitively, but I didn’t really play poorly. I thought I did a lot of good things. Just wanted to continue that this week, and I have.”
Woods has a 49-4 record on the PGA Tour when he has at least a share of the 54-hole lead, and it’s even more daunting when the lead is his alone. The only two players to come from behind to beat him over the final 18 holes were Ed Fiori in the Quad City Classic in 1996 when Woods was a 20-year-old rookie, and Y.E. Yang in the 2009 PGA Championship a Hazeltine.
In worldwide events, Thomas Bjorn (Dubai), Lee Westwood (Germany) and Graeme McDowell (Chevron World Challenge) have made up deficits against him on the last day.