THOUSAND OAKS, California (Reuters) - Tiger Woods knows Sherwood better than anyone else at the World Challenge but in Graeme McDowell he trails a player who is equally at home at the venue by five shots going into Sunday’s final round.
While tournament host Woods has won the elite invitational event a record five times, Northern Irishman McDowell has finished second and first in his only two previous starts here and he led by two shots after Saturday’s third round.
”He likes it here,“ American world number three and defending champion Woods told reporters about McDowell. ”The golf course suits his game, he keeps the ball in front of him and he’s a beautiful putter.
“His ball flight is, I think, perfect for how the conditions are. He hits it flat and loves to draw it, and that’s going to take a lot of the spin off it, which is great.”
Though Woods sits five shots off the pace heading into the final round of the 18-man event at Sherwood Country Club, recent history is in his favor with only one player winning the title in the last eight years after holding the 54-hole lead.
Woods himself was the sole exception, triumphing by a record seven strokes in 2007 after leading by six heading into the final round.
Victory on Sunday would certainly cap a successful year for the 14-times major champion who returned to form by winning three tournaments on the 2012 PGA Tour.
“Always nice to end the year with a win,” smiled Woods after firing a three-under-par 69 in rain-soaked conditions at Sherwood on Saturday. “I’ve done it a few times here at this event, and hopefully I can do it again tomorrow.”
Woods is perhaps due for a low score on Sunday, having produced good form in fits and starts in the previous three rounds at Sherwood.
Though the par-72 layout is playing ultra-long after a week of intermittent rain, the greens are receptive to bold approach play but Woods has, in the main, failed to take advantage of the five par-fives.
”I missed a few opportunities out there,“ he said after mixing four birdies with one bogey to post an eight-under total of 208. ”I felt like I played decent enough to get to 10 under, to get to double digits, and just didn’t do it.
“As of right now I‘m five back. I‘m going to have to shoot a low one tomorrow and see what happens.”
Editing by Greg Stutchbury