TULSA, Okla. - The final pairing of the year's final major, the 2007 PGA Championship here at super-heated Southern Hills Country Club, might have had the trappings of a premier heavyweight bout - if one of the fighters wasn't such an underdog.
Woods, cool, confident and on cruise-control, fashioned a 69 Saturday and widened his lead to three strokes.
Ames won the dubious honor of being paired with Woods by also shooting a 69 Saturday, and trails by three strokes.
In fact, the five players at the top of the leaderboard all shot 69: Woody Austin at 3-under starts Sunday with sole possession of third place, followed by John Senden at 2-under and Ernie Els at 1-under. They are the only players in the field under par.
How do you pump up Tiger Woods, with 12 major golf tournaments under his belt, against Stephen Ames, with none?
You ask both combatants about comments Ames made before the 2006 Accenture Match Play Championship, in which he said "anything can happen, especially where (Woods) is hitting it."
Woods then humiliated Ames in the event, 10 and 8.
Ames, born in Trinidad, forsook his normally laid-back Caribbean attitude and became combative when asked about it after his round.
"Are we here at the PGA or the Match Play?" he almost yelled, waving his arms about. "Which one are we talking about?"
Ames has said repeatedly his comments were taken out of context. "I don't know if I want to go there because you might take it out of context again," he said.
Whether his comments were or weren't taken out of context, Woods didn't buy it then and he's not buying it now.
"I don't know about the whole 'out of context thing,'" he said calmly. "I read the quote. I went out there and played pretty good. Ten and 8 - it is what it is."
Woods, of course, has a well-earned reputation of playing well when he has a point to make, or when he feels someone has questioned his ability.
He also has a reputation for intimidating his Sunday playing partners, especially so when a major golf tournament is on the line. Woods will essentially gauge the success of his 2007 season on what happens Sunday.
He did win four tournaments this year. But, without a major, Woods admits he will be disappointed. He's been shut out of a major victory only three times in his career, and he's won two majors each of the last four years.
One more thing Ames has going against him: Woods has never lost a major in which he led going into the final round. As reporters struggled to get Woods to come up with a definitive reason, Woods put it simply.
"Maybe because I've won 12 majors? Woods said. "Maybe?
The Woods-Ames matchup provided some much needed drama at the tournament, ever since Woods grabbed the lead Friday and appears reluctant to let it go.
Wearing a lime-green shirt that almost matched the color of the fairways, Woods continued his surgical precision, hitting irons and fairway woods off the tee, playing the percentages, putting together great iron shots and timely putting. In essence, he played the course the way architect Perry Maxwell drew it up.
"My goal was to shoot under par and increase my lead," Woods said. "And I did that."
Ames wasn't exactly a slouch. He's been the most consistent player in the field, and now has three rounds in the 60s.
The course and conditions - temperatures reached 101 degrees and the heat index was 110 - continued to take their toll on the field, sending players north of par. The numbers of players under par has steadily dwindles as the tournament has progressed.
With pins tucked in precarious conditions and the greens starting to deteriorate, par is becoming a good score.
"It was definitely set up tough today, with the pins being so close to the edges," Ames said.
Woods and Ames tee off Sunday at 2 p.m.
August 12, 2007
Veteran golf writer Tim McDonald keeps one eye on the PGA Tour and another watching golf vacation hotspots and letting travelers in on the best place to vacation.
Davis Love III, who played the final 57 holes of the Children's Miracle Network Classic without a bogey, finished at 25-under 263 in the season-ending event played at the Walt Disney World Golf Resort in Florida. It has been a long road back for Love, who severely sprained his ankle late last year. After tearing ligaments, he needed surgery, and he's spent much of this year rehabilitating the injury.
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