Woods played just two holes Sunday before the downpour began, but the defending champion had managed to extend his lead to three shots as he seeks to regain the coveted top spot he surrendered on October 31, 2010 after holding it for 281 consecutive weeks.
In all, the 37-year-old has been No. 1 for a record 623 weeks — but he dropped as low as 58th following his extramarital affairs, subsequent divorce and a run of injuries before bouncing back with five tournament wins in the past 12 months.
The last of his 14 major titles came back in 2008, but his recent form suggests that Woods will be a top contender at next month’s Masters.
The American has won four tournaments seven times — including this one — but victory on Monday would make him only the second player alongside the legendary Sam Snead to win the same event on eight occasions.
A birdie at his second hole on Sunday gave Woods a handy buffer over 2011 PGA Championship winner Keegan Bradley and fellow U.S. players Rickie Fowler, Ken Duke and John Huh.
He has won 50 of the 54 times in which he has taken the lead into the final round.
The PGA Tour’s website reported that the thunderstorms in Orlando, Florida were so severe that the large media center tent had to be evacuated, with a tornado warning issued.
“Several tree limbs were down across the property and power was lost for nearly 30 minutes,” it said.
“The golf course is gone, bunkers are gone. We’re going to need time for the course to drain,” PGA official Mike Russell said on the tour’s Twitter webpage.
Before the weather intervened, Sergio Garcia had to climb up into one of the trees to play his second shot at the par-four 10th hole after his ball became lodged in the branches.
With the wind whistling in the leaves, the Spaniard hit a backwards, one-handed shot onto the fairway before leaping back to the ground — and was awarded “9.8 on the dismount” by one TV commentator who also hailed his “tree iron.”
However, he double-bogeyed the hole and pulled out of the tournament soon after as he trailed Woods by 10 shots.
It was the second remarkable shot in two days, following Nicholas Thompson’s barefoot shot from the water at 17, where his ball was submerged.
Still without his shoes, and slacks rolled up to the knee, he calmly sank his par putt.
There was also a fine water escape on Sunday, as Matt Every eagled the par-four third hole despite having his feet planted in the hazard.
The-CNN-Wire™ & © 2013 Cable News Network, Inc., a Time Warner Company. All rights reserved.