CHIBA (Japan) • Seven holes are all that stand between Tiger Woods and matching Sam Snead's record of 82 PGA Tour victories after he moved three shots clear of Hideki Matsuyama yesterday at the rain-affected Zozo Championship.
Woods was 18 under after 11 holes of his final round - he had three birdies against a lone bogey - when play was suspended owing to bad light at the Narashino Country Club, while local favourite Matsuyama, a flight in front, was 15 under with six holes left. The final round resumes today at 7.30am (6.30am in Singapore).
Nobody else is closer than six shots in what is realistically a two-horse race, which got a little bit interesting when Matsuyama notched two consecutive birdies to give himself a glimmer of hope.
But the first PGA Tour event in Japan is very much in Woods' control and asked if he would allow himself to think of matching Snead's mark, the American did not bat an eyelid.
"I'm trying to win, no doubt about that," said the 15-time Major winner, who wrapped up his third round yesterday morning with a four-under 66.
"If I do what I'm supposed to do and get the job done, then I get a W. I guess that will add up to the 82 number, but my main focus is doing what I need to do to get the W first."
Snead recorded his 82nd victory in 1965, at the age of 52, nine years older than Woods' current age.
Tiger Woods is a perfect 24 for 24 when he takes a lead of three strokes or more into the final round and 43 for 45 when he has the outright lead.
It was a marathon day for the entire field, more than 10 hours and 29 holes for Woods before darkness fell, and certainly a stern test for the former world No. 1 in his first event since undergoing arthroscopic surgery on his left knee in August.
But Woods, who does not have a single top-10 finish after June, passed with flying colours and then some in front of an enthusiastic but exceedingly polite sell-out crowd that had its loyalties split between the golf icon and Japan's top player.
Rory McIlroy was the biggest mover as he catapulted up the leaderboard with a third-round 63, equalling the low round of the week, to follow his 65 on Saturday. The FedEx Cup champion lies fifth on 11 under with two holes left.
The odds favour Woods though. He is a perfect 24 for 24 when he takes a lead of three strokes or more into the final round and 43 for 45 when he has the outright lead.
He said: "Today's been a long day in the saddle. Everything held up pretty good.
"It's not that easy, and considering that I had the stress of having the lead and being under the gun for that long, it's a long period of time having come off a knee procedure and haven't really stressed it like this."
He was also pleased with how he handled things mentally.
"Ten hours, that's a long period of time to be focused, and in and out of focus," he said.
"The mind tends to wander a little bit and got to grab it and make it come back and be 100 per cent committed on the shot."
For Matsuyama, who has won five times on the PGA Tour, his objectives are clear. "I am only thinking how to catch up and win the tournament," said the 27-year-old. "Let's see what is going to happen in the last six holes tomorrow."
REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE