Chiba, Japan: Tiger Woods moved within sight of matching Sam Snead’s record of 82 PGA Tour victories, staying three shots clear of Hideki Matsuyama with seven holes left at the rain-affected Zozo Championship on Sunday.
Woods will resume on Monday morning at 18 under-par after 11 holes of his final round at Narashino Country Club, while local favourite Matsuyama will resume at 15 under with six holes left.
Nobody else is closer than six shots in what is realistically a two-horse race. But what had seemed like turning into a victory procession for Woods suddenly got a little bit interesting when Matsuyama notched up two consecutive birdies to end the day on a high note.
“I played alright,” said an understated Woods. “I made a few mistakes here and there. Pretty pleased with most of the day and I made birdies when I had opportunities.”
Asked if he would allow himself to think of matching Snead’s record, Woods did not bat an eyelid: “I’m trying to win, no doubt about that,” he said.
It was a marathon day for the entire field, more than 10 hours and at least 29 holes before darkness forced the suspension of play, and certainly a stern test for a 43-year-old in his first event since undergoing arthroscopic surgery on his left knee.
But Woods passed with flying colours and then some in front of an enthusiastic but exceedingly polite sellout crowd that had its loyalties split between the 15-times major champion and Japan’s top player.
Saturday’s second round was completed behind closed doors sans spectators due to some muddy conditions but the course was remarkably dry on Sunday, with a few damp spots but nothing more.
The greens remained extremely soft, allowing players to fire aggressively at the pins.
Woods shot 66 in the third round on Sunday morning and had a three-shot lead over Matsuyama after 54 holes.
Leading scores (par 70)
194 — Tiger Woods (USA) 64-64-66
197 — Hideki Matsuyama (JPN) 65-67-65
198 — Gary Woodland (USA) 64-66-68
199 — Xander Schauffele (USA) 68-66-65, Billy Horschel (USA) 68-67-64, Corey Conners (CAN) 69-64-66
200 — Rory McIlroy (NIR) 72-65-63