Golf: Tiger Woods takes commanding lead

Tiger Woods is delivering an unmistakable pre-Masters warning to his major rivals at the World Golf Championships (WGC) tournament in Florida. Photo / Getty Images.
Tiger Woods is delivering an unmistakable pre-Masters warning to his major rivals at the World Golf Championships (WGC) tournament in Florida. Photo / Getty Images.

Tiger Woods is delivering an unmistakable pre-Masters warning to his major rivals at the World Golf Championships (WGC) tournament in Florida.

The former world No.1 appeared set for an unprecedented 17th victory in a WGC event - the elite tier below majors - after he surged to a four-shot lead over Graeme McDowell with a five-under-par 67 third round to reach 18-under.

A win on on the TPC Blue Monster course on Sunday would bring Woods a seventh WGC-Cadillac Championship title and his 76th US PGA Tour win as he hunts down Sam Snead's record of 82.

More importantly for Woods, it would be a win against the rest of the world's best with the Masters at Augusta National looming, having not won a WGC event since 2009 and a major since 2008.

Ominously, Woods' tally of 24 birdies through 54 holes is a career-best for the world No.2.

When leading after 54 holes, Woods has closed out 50 of 54 US PGA tournaments and plenty are wondering if he is headed back to his form of 2000 when he was at his dominant best.

"Well, I don't want it to be as good. That was never the intent. I want it to be better," Woods declared.

"I'm excited about the way I'm playing, hitting the ball well, making some putts."

McDowell, the 2010 US Open winner, shot 69 to move to 14-under to be one shot clear of Americans Phil Mickelson (69) and Steve Stricker (69).

John Senden (70) was the best of the Australians in a tie for 13th, but a distant 10 shots off the pace.

With stronger winds forecast for Sunday's final round, the chasing pack was still confident they could reel in Woods.

"I've won a few tournaments in the wind," Woods countered.

"I think that if you're coming from behind, it's always nice to have tougher conditions.

"But also when you've got the nice lead, too, it's nice to have tougher conditions and you can make a bunch of pars.

"I'll get a good feel, going out tomorrow before I tee off from some of the guys, what they are doing out there."

Senden struggled to build momentum throughout his round.

"I wasn't sure the leaders were going to move that far forward in these conditions but look at Tiger - he's really steamrolling forward now. He's obviously doing everything great," Senden said.

"Tomorrow I need to try to shoot in the 60s and see what happens. I don't think Tiger will be coming back but I'd really love to be double figures under par.

"There is a lot to play for, these world events give up lots of world ranking points and I'm in a good spot to get a good result after a slow start to the year."

Adam Scott (-6) was in a tie for 19th while Jason Day (-1) dropped back.

Australia's Masters hopefuls Geoff Ogilvy (even) and Marcus Fraser (+6) put themselves under pressure in their bid for much-needed world-ranking points as they try to be inside the world top 50 by April 1.

The top 57 place-getters this week are awarded a descending amount of points with Ogilvy now tied 41st and Fraser 62nd.

Ogilvy started the week at 47th in the world and Fraser 56th, but current standings would have them fall backwards.

-AAP

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