Woods Takes Nine-Stroke Lead
Stanford sophomore Tiger Woods continued his patient mastery of The Honors Course with a 69, his third sub-70 round, to take a nine-stroke lead Friday after three rounds of the NCAA golf championships.
Arizona State continued to lead the team competition, holding a five-stroke lead over Nevada Las Vegas with one day of competition left.
Woods, who graduated from Western High, birdied two of the first three holes and the last two to move to 11 under par.
“That’s pretty good,” said Arizona State Coach Randy Lein, who then burst out laughing. It is more than pretty good as was evident by the way the rest of the field battled the 7,039-yard par-72 course.
“I struggled in the middle, kind of lost my swing for while,” Woods said. “It was going everywhere.”
But it didn’t stray far enough for him to make more than one bogey until he got his swing back.
“When you’re not hitting it just right you have to keep it in play,” Woods said. “This course is so penal.”
The largest margin of victory in an NCAA tournament is seven strokes in 1992 (Phil Mickelson of Arizona State) and 1971 (Ben Crenshaw of Texas), but Woods wasn’t in the mood to consider that.
“Anything can happen out here,” Woods said. “It’s not hard to make quads [quadruple bogeys] and triples, it’s really not. You can wind up with an eight in a heartbeat.”
Woods’ nearest competitor is Rory Sabbatini of Arizona, who shot 74 Friday and is at two-under 214.
“Tiger is a little too experienced to come back to the field,” Sabbatini said. “The great fight right now is for second place, because the rest of us can either come forward or go back. Finishing second would be an honor.”
Brad Elder of Texas shot 76 Friday and is in a third-place tie at one-under with Darren Angel of Arizona State, who shot 69.
UNLV’s Ted Oh, who graduated from Torrance, is fifth at even par after a 70, and Lewis Chitengwa of Virginia moved to sixth at one-over with the day’s low round of 68.
Robert Floyd of Florida, son of PGA great Raymond Floyd, shot 77 Friday and is 11-over. Ray Floyd Jr.'s Wake Forest team didn’t make the cut, and he lost in a playoff for one of the nine individual spots Thursday.
Arizona State continued its solid play in pursuit of its first NCAA title since 1990. Although large swings have been the rule this week rather than the exception, the team race appears to be between the Sun Devils and UNLV. The third-place team, East Tennessee State, is 17 shots behind.
“There’s a lot of talented teams here. I thought it would be a close race with a lot of teams involved,” Lein said. “You can’t have too big a lead. I’d rather have 20 shots than five, but we’ve got five players playing well.”
UNLV Coach Dwaine Knight said his team has made comebacks from 12 and 15 strokes down on the last day of tournaments this year, and so enters Saturday knowing it can be done.
“On this course you don’t have to take it low,” said UNLV’s Oh. “We don’t have to shoot three or four or five under. If we can shoot par we can make it up. It can change so fast out here.”