TULSA, Okla. (AP) — Another record for Tiger Woods. Another major might not be far behind.
Woods matched the major championship record with a 63 in the PGA Championship on Friday, turning away in disbelief when a 15-foot birdie putt on the final hole spun 270 degrees around the cup that would have given him the record alone.
Of greater interest is adding to his collection of majors, and Woods took a big step on a steamy afternoon with eight birdies and one key par save that carried him to a two-shot lead over Scott Verplank.
A gallery dripping with sweat rose to their feet when Woods hit his approach within 15 feet on the final hole, and they braced for history when Woods’ birdie putt took a dip inside the cup before spinning out the other side. Woods began to raise his putter when he turned away and let it fall from his fingers.
“I knew if I made that putt on the last hole it would have been a nice little record to have,” Woods said. “A 62 1/2 is all right.”
Woods is 7-0 when he has the 36-hole lead going into the weekend at a major, and even more history is on his side at Southern Hills. The past six major champions on this course all had the lead after 36 holes.
“We’ve got a long way to go,” Woods said, trying to avoid getting shut out in the majors this year.
It might seem even longer to those trying to catch Woods, who was at 6-under 134, two better than Verplank, who had a 66.
Former U.S. Open champion Geoff Ogilvy was matching Woods birdie-for-birdie on the back nine until he closed with two bogeys for a 68 that left him at 3-under 137 with Stephen Ames (69).
Ernie Els did well to shoot 68 to reach even par, but the Big Easy could not ignore the daunting name atop the leaderboard.
“You can’t think or believe that it’s over,” Els said. “I want to believe it’s not. I’ve got two rounds left. We all know he’s No. 1 and he’s on form. That’s kind of dangerous. But I’m playing well myself.”
John Daly put on a different show, whipping out driver and lumbering through the rough and the trees to find it. He hit enough good shots to salvage a 73 that left him six shots behind and asking an important question.
“How do you cool Tiger off?” Daly said.
It was the 23rd round of 63 in the majors, but only four others have gone on to win — Johnny Miller in the 1973 U.S. Open at Oakmont, Jack Nicklaus in the 1980 U.S. Open at Baltusrol, Greg Norman in the 1986 British Open at Turnberry, and Raymond Floyd in the 1982 PGA Championship at Southern Hills.
Thomas Bjorn was the last player to shoot 63 in a major, in the third round at the 2005 PGA Championship at Baltusrol. Woods might not have predicted a record-tying round, but even after opening with a 71, he said he hit the ball far better than he scored. This time, he made a few putts — only 24 in the second round.
“I was just trying to get myself back in this tournament,” Woods said. “And lo and behold, here I am.”
The company is getting smaller.
Only eight players remained under par, with Woods and Ogilvy the only ones in that group who have won a major.
Woody Austin (70) was at 138, while John Senden (70), Niclas Fasth (68) and Pat Perez (69) were another shot back. Daly joined Els in the large group at 140.