Woods gave one of those classic grins. He didn't respond but the answer, for those living in a cave, is yes. Not only was he out of his mind Saturday over the final six holes here at the 108th U.S. Open, he made nearly everyone at Torrey Pines lose theirs.
After struggling to a three-over score through the first 12 holes, Woods turned the last six holes into a career highlight reel with three unforgettable shots, playing them to an insane 4-under. He shot 70 and stands at 3-under, a shot ahead of Lee Westwood.
Woods pushed a nasty drive into the right rough on the par-5 13th that was near a concession stand and directly behind a television tower. After a free drop, Woods hit his 5-iron from 210 yards onto the front of the green, but his ball rolled to the back, settling some 60 feet beyond the hole.
Then he put a smooth stroke on the putt that had 10 feet of break from right to left and the ball dropped dead center of the cup, setting Woods into a fury of fists pumps that even he hasn't produced too often on the course.
An eagle from the hot-dog stand.
A bogey on the ensuing 14th steamed him, and par on the next two holes didn't exactly make him pleased.
The final two holes, however, were dramatic even by Woods' standards. He blew his tee shot right on the par-4 17th and hit his approach into rough left of the green just outside the bunker. Then he hit a one-hop pitch shot into the jar for a birdie three, sending the Southern California onlookers into a tizzy. Woods' celebration of choice this time was a laugh that sent the vibe that he was embarrassed the ball found the hole.
Birdie from nasty rough after two poor shots.
That was nothing compared to the final hole, where Woods hit driver, 5-wood to 35 feet beyond the hole and then drained the putt for his second eagle on the back side. This time he ended his round with one, strong emphatic fist pump.
Eagle, with a bad knee and the world watching.
Seriously, this stuff doesn't happen to mortals.
Woods often likes to refer to his fortunes as luck, but it's skill. If it were luck, these things would happen to other players. But they don't. Phil Mickelson hit two good shots on No. 13 and made nine. Woods hits one terrible shot, follows it with two great ones and makes three.
"That's what he does; it is what he does," Mediate said. "But just once, can't someone else do it? Come on."
No, Rocco, no one can. Kudos are in order for Westwood and Mediate, who are the only other players under par through 54 holes (at 2-under and 1-under, respectively), but by Sunday afternoon, both will be footnotes, also-rans.
The proof is in the numbers. Woods is a perfect 13-0 in major championships when holding at least a share of the lead after 54 holes. He is 43-of-46 when holding at least a share of the lead in his career on the PGA Tour. This is the first 54-hole lead Woods has had at the U.S. Open since he beat Mickelson by three shots to win at Bethpage Black in 2002.
He will not relinquish it.
"Sure, he's probably going to win, but he might not," Mediate said. "You just don't know that."
The only thing that would keep Woods from winning is his delicate left knee, which bothered him often over the final four holes. The first sign of pain came after a tee shot on the 15th hole, and he winced again minutes later after hitting his approach. Ditto on the 18th.
"If the pain hits, the pain hits," Woods said. "So be it. It's just pain."
It's difficult to tell who was in more pain — Woods because of his knee, or everyone else in the field because of Woods heroics.
Woods was asked about his heroics after the round, when a reporter asked him why he celebrated each of the three dramatic shots differently. Seems we're so used to Woods doing the impossible that we're now onto dissecting his fist pumps.
"It's all spontaneous," Woods said of the various Saturday celebrations. "Thirteen, I went nuts and 18, I was like sweet. It's just one of those emotional things. I can't tell you what's coming."
What's coming? Major championship No. 14.
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