| Tiger Woods watches his tee shot on the 16th hole during the third round of the Western Open at Cog Hill Golf and Country Club in Lemont, Illinois, Saturday. (Reuters)
Lemont (Illinois): Tiger Woods broke away from the field on Saturday, shooting a seven-under-par 65 to build a six-stroke lead after three rounds of the 100th Western Open.
The world No. 1, who has led the tournament from the first day, had eight birdies, one eagle and three bogeys to finish on 18-under 198 at the Coghill Golf and Country Club’s Dubsdread course.
Australia’s Robert Allenby birdied the 18th hole to join Cliff Kresge on 204. Rich Beem, the 2002 US PGA champion, fired a 65 to move into fourth place on 205.
US Masters winner Mike Weir of Canada, defending Western Open champion Jerry Kelly and Glen Day shared fifth place on 206. Tom Byrum, world No. 9 Phil Mickelson and Robert Damron were tied for eighth, nine shots off the lead.
Woods began the day with a one-stroke lead over world No. 7 David Toms, who stumbled to a two-over 74 and dropped 10 shots behind.
The world No. 1, who took only 23 putts on Saturday, birdied the second and third holes before eagling the fifth. Three birdies and a bogey later, he made the turn in a six-under 30.
Woods, who played the back nine in one-under, said he relished having such a big lead with one round to play.
“I’ve always enjoyed being ahead, and on top of that, if you’re ahead and you go out there and shoot the same score, you automatically win,” he said.
“If you are ahead and make a couple of mistakes, at least you have that lead and the cushion to right the ship...and you can still win the tournament.
Woods’ mistakes were few on Saturday, and when he made his lone bogey of the round at the par-four eighth, he hit back immediately with a birdie.
“Any time you can come right back with a birdie, it just feels like it automatically erases what you’ve just done,” he said.
When Woods has had the 54-hole lead on the PGA Tour, he has won 28 times out of 30. He said he would alter little in his game for the final 18 holes.
“The only difference is if you’re in a situation where you feel like you need to fire at a flag stick, you may not have to,” he said. “That’s about it. You still have to go out there and play the game.”
However the chasing pack know the tournament is virtually a done deal for Woods.
“I can’t see him shooting level par on this course because of his length and the way he hits his irons,” said Allenby, who won the tournament in 2000.
“He’s a good putter and he has a fantastic short game. What else hasn’t he got'”
Asked if anyone could catch Woods, Beem replied: “Obviously if Tiger keeps playing the way he is, no, there’s no way.