(Getty Images photo)
MIAMI - Having just watched Tiger Woods hang a 5-under 67 on the board that extended his lead in the WGC-Cadillac Championship to four shots, Graeme McDowell couldn't help but heap praise on his playing partner, even though he didn't want to.
"Kind of hard to answer these with him in the room," McDowell said on the stage while looking to the back of the interview room where Woods was standing. "The way he controlled his ball, it wasn't like, 'Wow,' it was just really solidly good and impressive, you know, so ... OK, that's enough of that."
The whole field has had enough of that - because they've seen this kind of thing before.
Woods is in prime position to pick up his second win of the season - and 76th of his career - after he tamed the erstwhile Blue Monster at Trump Doral Resort with another birdie barrage. With seven more, including a snappy 16-footer on the home hole, Woods has converted a personal best 24 to complete 54-holes on the TPC Blue Course in 18-under 198.
His 67 Saturday amid sunshine and freshening breezes tied for low round of the day with Nicolas Colsaerts, Sergio Garcia and last week's Honda Classic winner Michael Thompson.
Asked if he could remember the last time he played this well, Woods replied succinctly, grinning, "Yeah, Torrey. Wasn't that long ago."
It was, in fact, just three starts ago that Woods won his PGA Tour season debut at the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines GC.
Thanks to two eagles, the latter a chip-in at the par-4 16th, McDowell shot 69-202 and earned a second consecutive pairing with Woods. The last time they shared the last tee time was a year ago at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. Woods led by one at the start and triumphed by five shots.
"You know what kind of closer he is," said Steve Stricker, who is T-3 with Phil Mickelson at 203 after both men carded 69s. "When he gets the lead in a golf tournament, it's tough. He doesn't let too many guys in."
More accurately, Woods has never lost a 54-hole lead when ahead by at least three strokes, and he's won 50 of 54 times when owning at least a share of the lead.
His pursuers expressed hope that Sunday's anticipated windy conditions might slow down the No. 2 player in the world. That might be their only chance. But Woods seemed unconcerned.
"I've won a few tournaments in the wind," Woods pointed out. "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. We'll see how this golf course is playing tomorrow and we'll see how much water they put on it and how fiery it is."
Woods, 37, is going for his second win of the season and his fifth in his last 18 starts dating to his victory at Bay Hill that ended a nearly three-year drought in official events.