TULSA, Okla. -- Public-safety officials could rightly have sounded the tornado sirens. A storm was fast rising in the distance and it produced an assault on the senses.
To nobody's surprise, Tiger Woods was making a move and everybody's barometer was pulsing. An ill wind was blowing and for the guys in the field at the 89th PGA Championship, it likely portends doom.
Fans could see it, hear it, feel it and sense it as the feedback began to build with every back-nine birdie, uppercut and fist pump, and it didn't end until a 15-footer for a historic-low round lipped out of the hole on the final green. The gallery gave him an ovation, anyway.
Woods dropped his putter on the ground when the final birdie putt lipped out of the hole, yet he still matched the lowest round in major-championship history with a 63 on Friday at Southern Hills Country Club, vaulting to 6 under and into a two-shot lead over Scott Verplank.
"Evidently, it didn't want to go in," Woods said.
Apparently, the rest of 'em mostly did.
"Obviously, I had a good seat," playing partner Bob Tway said. "That's why he's the best. He made it look pretty simple. It's great just to watch and see how the best player ever, in my opinion, gets it done."
It is a done deal?
Golfers aren't big on firing shots across the bow, but Woods seemingly sent a message that could be heard for miles. Geoff Ogilvy, who is tied for third at 3 under, seemed downright confused over whether to quiver and quake, or make a free-wheeling run at Woods, who is 7-for-7 in majors when holding the 36-hole lead.
Thunderclouds seemingly have formed.
"Not that ominous," Ogilvy said, before apparently changing his mind. "I mean, Tiger Woods, he's just a good player. He does pretty well when he leads after two rounds, and even better when he leads after three. So I guess that is kind of ominous."
Woods started the day six back and had assumed the lead before the back nine was complete, tossing approach shots at holes like they were dartboards. Starting with a birdie on the ninth, he used six putts in the next seven holes and played that stretch 5 under to seize control.
"I was just trying to get myself back in the tournament," he said, almost shrugging. "Lo and behold, here I am."
It marked the 23rd time a player has signed for a 63 at a major championship, and given the way he played, if a sense of resignation takes root in the field, it's only to be expected. Halfway home or not, Woods' record with the 36-hole lead dovetails frighteningly with a local tradition. In the six instances in which Southern Hills has hosted a major, the 36-hole leader has won every time.
"It certainly does give you confidence," Woods said of his perfect record as a midpoint front-runner. "I know what to do. It's just a matter of going out there and doing it."
With birdies on five of seven holes, Woods had moved to 7 under for the day through No. 15, and needed to record a birdie on one of the three incoming holes to record a record 62. He missed birdie putts of 12, 30 and 15 feet, however, though did better his previous best round in a major, a 64 at the British Open in 1997.
Woods, whose short game often gets short shrift, chipped in for a birdie on No. 14 to take the outright lead. It marked the third straight round in which Woods had chipped in at least once, dating to his victory last Sunday at the Bridgestone Invitational, when he did it twice.
He also holed a key 35-footer for par on No. 12 that kept his momentum moving, a development he accentuated with a trademark fist-pump and quick, half-step dance. All said, Woods couldn't think of a better round in his career.
"It's certainly up there," he said. "I hit the ball very well and I felt all day that I was in control of my shots."
Not to belabor the point, but that might partly have been because he only hauled out his unpredictable driver three times. In order to work the ball around the course's doglegs and tight quarters, Woods used everything from a 3-wood to a 5-iron off various tees on the driving holes.
Ogilvy, for one, said that having Woods out front might seem daunting, but that he can't possibly keep protecting these leads forever, can he?
"It makes it easier, doesn't it?" Ogilvy said, philosophically. "Because now you've got nothing to lose if you don't win. Nobody expects you to.
"That's the way I look at it. You know you'll have to do well because he's the best front-runner in history, probably."
Moreover, the leader is a motivated man. Woods, who is seeking his fourth PGA title, hasn't collected a major this year, so he's got a hankering for more hardware. That isn't his only unfulfilled appetite. Despite fashioning one of the best days in his stellar career, Woods seemed slightly subdued afterward, it was pointed out.
"I'm very satisfied," he said. "I'm just really hungry. I just want to go home and eat."
Over the weekend, you can bet that audible rumble, building in the distance, will not be emanating from his stomach.
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