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August 17, 2009

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Woods still on course at Hazeltine

TIGER Woods stayed calm in the face of charging rivals and an impending storm to hold a two-shot lead over Padraig Harrington and Yang Yong-eun of South Korea after Saturday's third round of the US PGA Championship in Chaska, Minnesota.

Woods, who began another windy day at Hazeltine with a four-stroke lead over a group of five players, shot one-under 71 for an eight-under total of 208.

The 33-year-old American has never lost when he has carried a lead into the final round of a major, and all 14 of his major championship victories have come in this fashion.

While challengers were piling up birdies, and bogeys, Woods had 15 pars, two birdies and one bogey and finished just before heavy rain hit the area.

"I was pretty consistent today all day," the world No. 1 told reporters. "Only mistake I made was three-putting there at four. Other than that, the card was pretty clean." Holder Harrington, who briefly tied Woods for the lead late in the round, shot 69 despite a bogey at the last hole, and Yang fired a five-under 67 to match Woods's first-round score and lowest for the tournament.

"It's a privilege to be listed on top with those names, great names and great players that I admire and respect," Yang, ranked 110th, said through an interpreter.

Four strokes behind Woods, tied for fourth on four-under, were US Open champion Lucas Glover and Sweden's Henrik Stenson. American Glover had 71, while Stenson posted a 67. Triple major champion Ernie Els of South Africa, who stood one shot behind Woods before finishing with three straight bogeys, was joined by Dane Soren Kjeldsen a further stroke back on 213.

Harrington tied Woods on seven-under when he rolled in an eight-foot birdie at the 14th, and would have taken the lead outright had he made his 15-foot birdie putt on the next hole.

Woods reclaimed sole possession of the lead when he knocked the ball in the cup from just off the green at the 14th to reach eight-under with his first birdie since the second hole.

Blade of an iron

"I couldn't get a putter on it, and I couldn't chip it," explained Woods, who used the blade of an iron to strike it.

Woods doubled his lead when the Irishman bogeyed the 18th as rain began to fall after a weather warning was posted.

"The narrower the gap the better," said Harrington, who was four back to start the day. "But obviously, to get a win you've got to beat him by three tomorrow and that's a tall order."

Yang, who won this year's Honda Classic on the US Tour, surged up the leaderboard with three successive birdies from the 14th. He had six birdies in all against one bogey and will be paired with Woods in the final round.

The 37-year-old Yang, a five-time winner on the Japan Tour, held off Woods to win the 2006 HSBC Champions in Shanghai.


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