/ 15 June 2008

Woods poised for 14th major victory

History strongly suggests Tiger Woods will seal his 14th major victory at the US Open on Sunday, regardless of the stabbing pain he has felt in his left knee at Torrey Pines over the last three days.

The American world number one goes into the final round one stroke clear, having triumphed 13 times out of 13 in majors when holding at least a share of the lead after 54 holes.

Woods clawed his way to the top of the leaderboard with a brilliant display of shot-making and long-range putting, despite hitting only six fairways out of 14.

A stunning birdie-eagle finish in late afternoon sunshine gave him a one-under-par 70 and a three-under total of 210 in his first tournament back since the Masters in mid-April.

Woods has been sidelined for the last eight weeks after having arthroscopic surgery on his knee and accepts he will have to keep grinding through the pain in pursuit of another major title.

”I just keep telling myself that if it grabs me and if I get that shooting pain, I get it but it’s always after impact,” Woods told reporters.

”So go ahead and just make the proper swing if I can. That’s what it’s all about is getting the ball in the hole in as few shots as possible.

”And I was just trying to manage my game, stay in there,” he said of a topsy-turvy round that included a pair of eagles, two birdies, three bogeys and a double-bogey at the par-four first.

Poor start
”It’s a US Open. Guys aren’t going to go low, and even though I got off to such a poor start again today I just hung around, trying to get back to even par either for the tournament or for the day.

”For the day would be great. But even if I finished at even par for the tournament it wouldn’t be a bad thing either. Then all of a sudden things started turning.”

Woods covered the last six holes in four under, rolling in a 60-footer to eagle 13, bogeying 14, sinking a 30-foot pitch from the rough to birdie 17 and signing off with a 40-foot eagle putt at the last.

”I didn’t really try and manufacture anything today, I was just trying to play the proper shot,” said the 32-year-old, who will start Sunday’s final round one shot ahead of Briton Lee Westwood. ”If pain hits, pain hits. So be it. It’s just pain.

”You look at staying patient and just staying in the moment, just progressing one shot at a time. It’s an old cliche but it’s no more true than at the US Open. You cannot get ahead of yourself at this event.”

Asked if he was at all concerned about his knee going into Sunday’s final round, he replied: ”I’ll be fine.”

US Open champion at Pebble Beach in 2000 and at Bethpage in 2002, Woods is gunning for the record 18 majors piled up by fellow American Jack Nicklaus between 1962 and 1986. Victory on Sunday would draw him within four of his childhood idol. – Reuters