No sweat

Dan Wetzel
Yahoo! Sports

TULSA , Okla. – While Scott Verplank tried and tried and tried to hit his ball through the triple digit heat, out of the woods and onto the 12th green to remain in the hunt for the PGA Championship, Tiger Woods stood off to the side and ate a banana.

Then he chugged some water. Then he shared a small joke with his caddy. Then he ate half a Snickers bar. Then he casually sat on a small brick bridge and ate the other half.

And by the time Tiger was finally called upon to sink a birdie putt that, in conjunction with Verplank's calamitous double bogey that effectively ended the drama here – even with 24 holes to play – Tiger looked so collected and cool you almost forgot he had sweated through his pants.

In conditions that promise to be better suited for boiling tungsten, Woods will go for his 13th major championship Sunday here at a scorched Southern Hills. He is sitting at 7-under, leading Stephen Ames by three strokes, Woody Austin by four and everyone else by forever. Woods is 12-0 when leading a major after 54 holes.

So while it's not officially over …

"(If I was) a fan on the couch, I'd be (betting) the house on him," said Ernie Els, who is technically in contention only six strokes back.

Why would Els say that?

"Maybe because I have 12 majors, maybe," smiled Woods.

There is even more to it than that. While everyone else seemed to wilt and wheeze under the brutal Oklahoma sun, Woods, the strongest both physically and mentally, seemed to bask in the misery, eventually wrapping himself in a post-round towel, like a boxer.

The rest of the field looked and sounded finished. Consider Boo Weekley, who was close enough to sun stroke to write the wrong number on Sergio Garcia's scorecard only to be outdone by Garcia, who was too spent to even notice. Sergio signed it and got disqualified. At least he gets to stay out of the heat.

No one else really knew what hit them. Afterwards they all looked a bit glazed over; a combination of dehydrated and delirious.

"I guess I slept wrong," shrugged Verplank, who shot a 74.

"I had to grind; I'm shattered," said Adam Scott, who shot 70.

"I played horrible. It was embarrassing," said Austin, despite shooting a 69.

Woods shot a 69 also, but he looked content. And that's the point. He left everyone rattled in their faith that anything but a coronation is coming Sunday.

His playing partner, Ames, may or may not have once trash-talked Woods before a match play (Ames claims he was quoted out of context) only to get crushed 9 and 8. So he spent most of his post-round press conference sounding like he's playing with second-hand clubs and range balls.

"Tiger's looking for his 13th major. I'm looking for my first," he noted. Later he added, "Five in front of him might not be enough. (I'm) three behind."

And you wonder why Woods' playing partners on Sundays – even at this year's Masters and U.S. Open where players from a different group eventually beat him out – tend to collapse.

"Probably because you're playing with Tiger," Ames said. "He has that influence on players. It's probably going to happen to me."

Does anyone think Tiger can be caught?

"I'd say (the chances are) not very good, if you want to know the truth," Verplank said.

What if we found some past great to play him? Say we pulled Bobby Jones from that great putting green in the sky?

"I think he would take Bobby Jones behind the woodshed, absolutely," said Arron Oberholser, who's seven back. "You give Jones the equipment today, I think he would still take him behind the woodshed. No one in history has had the ability that Tiger has."

So, essentially, the only person who can beat Tiger, is Tiger. And that would require him to lose his steel concentration on Sunday, which unless he tries the John Daly method of rehydration – a pack of Camels, a trip to the casino and the rest of the night drinking Tulsa dry – it isn't going to happen.

No matter how hot and harried it got Saturday, Woods was the picture of calm. Where other golfers were frayed, he nailed 14 greens in regulation.

This has been a year where golfers have whined about the majors for any number of reasons; the Masters (too windy), the U.S. Open (too mean), the British (too cold) and now the PGA (too hot).

Only Woods wasn't complaining Saturday, everyone else was. He's one round from what he covets, one afternoon from making his year count.

"I've always said in order to have a great year you have to win a major championship. You can win every tournament, but the majors are where it's at."

Where this major is at, is right in Tiger Woods' hands. Numerically he leads by three strokes. Mentally, it may be far more than that.

"I know what I have to do," he smiled.

Make room in the trophy case?

What to Read Next