David and Goliath battle tomorrow at Medinah
BY Bruce Young | US PGA Tour | 2006 US PGA Championship | Round Three | 20 Aug 2006
The final round of the 2006 USPGA Championship could be perceived as a battle between David and Goliath. Goliath is of course the power hitting and hugely successful Tiger Woods while David takes the form of Luke Donald the sweet swinging, conservative and, at this stage, non-major winning Brit.
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Not that the chances necessarily stop there but it will take a Herculean effort from Donald and the others in close proximity to prevent Woods from winning major number twelve.
Woods is the quintessential front runner with an exceptional record in holding on to and extending a lead when he has previously been in such situations. Donald on the other hand has never really contended for a major title. His two previous best efforts were a third at the Masters in 2005 and a 12th at Winged Foot this year. On both those occasions however the 28-year-old Englishman has come from behind while tomorrow he must face the challenges not only of leading but of going toe to toe in the final group against arguably the greatest the game has seen.
Donald’s beautiful golf swing, a game built around percentage golf and his growing success on the USPGA Tour have for some time given the impression that he could well win a major. When he chipped in for a birdie at the par four ninth today to complete an outward nine of 31, Donald had the lead by two over Woods, Mike Weir and Shaun Micheel.
Woods had reached the turn twenty minutes before Donald and he too had been on the move early. When he holed a putt of just 6 feet at the 9th he was out in 34 and had moved to 11 under and the back nine would see he and Donald vying for the 54 hole lead.
While Donald was creating opportunities over the back nine he was unable to convert and it would be Woods who would emerge as his greatest challenger. A significant moment came at the 10th where Woods was forced to lay up with his second at the par five and hit a poor third to the front edge of the green. His first putt was some nine feet short but when he holed that, not only had he dodged a bullet but he had also kept the momentum going.
Woods began his move towards the lead which Donald had at 13 under with a brilliant tee shot to nine feet at the long par three 14th and when he made that he was within one. At the very long par five 14th Woods hit a great tee shot but found the greenside bunker. His bunker shot was superb, finishing just two feet from the hole and when that went in he was tied with Donald at 13 under.
At the 15th Woods found a divot after a great tee shot but hit a great second to three feet and moved to fourteen under and had hit the lead for the first time in the tournament. A three putt bogey at the 16th, after missing a seven foot return putt, saw Woods drop back one behind but he soon put that right with his tee shot at the dangerous 17th to ten feet and when that disappeared he was back at fourteen under and in the lead once more.
The latent power that Woods possesses, and its benefit, was no better illustrated today than at the 18th when after driving it in the tangly right hand rough he was able to fly it all the way back to flag high and when he two putted for par he had recorded a third round of 65 and the lead was his. Very few in the field could have hit the shot Woods was able to hit at the last.
Behind Woods, Donald was stringing together a series of pars but playing very solidly. His only birdie of the back nine came after a tee shot at the 17th finished four feet from the hole and when he holed that he was back into a share of the lead with Woods.
Mike Weir had made a great run from his overnight position of 12th to actually take a share of Donald’s lead when he hit the most outrageously superb 4 iron from the left hand fairway trap to three feet at the 15th. If he goes on to win this event it will be perhaps the defining shot of the tournament for Weir. It was one of nine birdies he had recorded in the first fifteen holes but a bogey at the last after driving it into that thick right hand rough saw him drop out of the lead. He would eventually finish the day two behind but still has a great opportunity to add a second major to his list of victories.
Also with a great chance is Geoff Ogilvy, who is at 11 under and just three back. Ogilvy again highlighted just how far he has come as a player when he bounced back from a gut wrenching double bogey start to eventually finish with 68.
Shaun Micheel and Sergio Garcia are within four and not without a chance although to be fair everyone will now know that if they can beat Tiger Woods tomorrow, they can win. That of course is a lot easier said than it is on the golf course.
Of the other Australians, Adam Scott continued the progress he has shown in majors of late with a round of 69 but he will be disappointed with his bogey at the last, which has perhaps eliminated any chance he had of challenging those ahead tomorrow.
Robert Allenby was round in one under 71 to improve just a few places while Richard Green at one under and Nathan Green at even par are the best of the rest.
Photo – Anthony Powter