PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. -- Tiger Woods delivered a command performance that was all too familiar.
It was unlike anything ever in the U.S. Open.
Three years ago, Woods romped through Augusta National with a record-breaking victory that announced his arrival in the majors. On Saturday, he served notice that he wouldn't be going anywhere soon.
He overwhelmed Pebble Beach with incredible shots, more birdies than a U.S. Open cares to yield and the poise required in the toughest test of golf.
''The tough conditions, I thought, played into my hands,'' Woods said about the whipping winds off the Pacific and the kind of rough no one ever sees at Augusta. ''If I play the way I can, somebody is going to have to shoot a really, really good number.''
On a day when Pebble Beach averaged more than six shots over par, Woods escaped early trouble for an even-par 71 to build a 10-stroke lead, the largest 54-hole margin in the 106-year history of the U.S. Open.
Woods said he has dreamt about winning the U.S. Open.
''I'm usually playing against Jack and Arnold and Hogan, and usually it's neck-and-neck,'' he said. ''But I never had anything like this, even in fantasy golf.
It was a nightmare for everyone else.
''He hits every shot like his life depends on it,'' Thomas Bjorn said. ''He wants a birdie on every hole.''
The last time Woods had such a commanding lead was in the 1997 Masters, when he was nine strokes ahead after the third round and won by a record 12 strokes.
''The results are similar, but it's really hard to compare the two,'' Woods said. ''They're similar in the fact that I've played the same way.''
While 15 players failed to break 80, Woods cruised along with a remarkable display of control. He missed only two fairways, had five birdies, and made no worse than par over his final eight holes, as everyone else collapsed around him.
''With these conditions, it shows you the quality of player he is,'' said Miguel Angel Jimenez, who began the third round six strokes back and was at 216, along with Padraig Harrington.
''I'm trying to win my own tournament,'' the Spaniard said. ''He's playing a different tournament. There's no way you're going to take that tournament.''
Woods was at 8-under 205 and 10 strokes clear of two-time U.S. Open champion Ernie Els, whose 3-under 68 was the only round under par all day.
Els' brilliant effort moved him from a tie for 30th to second place. That put him in the final pairing Sunday with Woods, but hardly a showdown.
Woods' 54-hole lead shattered the mark set in 1921 by James Barnes, who led by seven strokes and went on to win by nine. Less than 12 hours earlier, Woods' six-stroke lead after 36 holes broke the record of five set by Willie Anderson in the 1903 U.S. Open.
No one has ever come back from more than seven strokes to win a U.S. Open, and never before has a player of Woods' caliber been the one protecting a lead. He is 17-2 worldwide when he has at least a share of the lead after three rounds.
A victory Sunday would give the 24-year-old Woods the third leg of the career Grand Slam, with the British Open at St. Andrews a month away. Jack Nicklaus, whose records Woods taped to his bedroom wall as a kid, was 26 when he won all four majors.
Despite his dominance, Woods finally showed signs Saturday of a struggle.
He had a triple bogey on the third hole, twice chopping out of the gnarly collar around a bunker. Still, he maintained a sizable lead because everyone else was having the same problems.
Jimenez and Bjorn, who started the third round six strokes off the pace, quickly dropped out of sight.
Harrington had a 72 and was at 216. Olazabal and Phil Mickelson, the runner-up last year at Pinehurst No. 2, were at 217 -- not a bad 54-hole score at any U.S. Open.
Except this one.
Throughout the toughest stretch of holes at Pebble Beach, along the rugged California coastline, Woods was at his best.
With one foot in the bunker and his ball in thick grass around the lip of a bunker, Woods blasted it out to 10 feet on the par-5 sixth for a birdie. He then holed another 10-footer on No. 7 to return to even par for the day.
After a bogey on No. 8 from the left rough -- no crime compared with what happened to Colin Montgomerie and Sergio Garcia -- Woods holed a 15-footer for birdie on No. 9, which was playing as the toughest hole on the course.
The best hope for the other golfers was for Woods to repeat history, not make it.
The last time the U.S. Open was played at Pebble Beach, Gil Morgan reached 12 under after seven holes of the third round. Then, the wind kicked up and the white caps in the blue Pacific raged, and Morgan came undone.
He played his next seven holes in 7 over, lost his seven-stroke lead and eventually the tournament.
''Now, Gil Morgan and Tiger Woods are not the same players,'' Justin Leonard said. ''But it has happened before.''
Not this time.
Despite a tee shot into the Pacific that caused Woods to curse up a storm, he finished his second round Saturday morning with a 69 and for a six-stroke lead. His 134 tied the U.S. Open record first set by Jack Nicklaus in 1980.
In the six hours before Woods teed off in the third round, the only question was how much lower he could go, how much more distance he could put between himself and the rest of the field.
''Typically in the U.S. Open, everybody always comes back,'' Mickelson said. ''You have a little different sense of that with Tiger, but there's nothing we can do about it.''
The field was trimmed to 63 players after the second round was completed, which is abnormally low because the cut is the top 60 players plus anyone within 10 strokes of the lead. Only 17 players were within 10 strokes of Woods.
''The only thing that could stop Tiger from winning is Tiger,'' said Jesper Parnevik, who was paired with him for the first two rounds.
Pebble Beach slammed just about everyone else.
Montgomerie required two swings out of the rough on the eighth green just to move the ball the length of his wedge. He took quadruple bogey 8 and finished at 79, his worst score in a U.S. Open. Garcia also took an 8 and had an 81.
Jim Furyk birdied the first hole and nothing else, signing for an 84. Hal Sutton, who was at 6 under at one point in the first round, had an 83.
Nick Faldo finished off his 76 to finish at 219, and looked back at the scoreboard to see whom might be left to challenge Woods.
''I was looking for Jimenez, and I couldn't find him,'' Faldo said.
The three-time Masters and British Open champion knows something about comebacks. He was six back of Greg Norman in the '96 Masters and won by five.
Could it happen again?
''I wouldn't think so,'' Faldo said. ''He's just playing so well, and he keeps his sensibilities about him. Even if he gives an odd shot back here and there, it won't be a disaster.''
Those closest to the lead -- if 10 strokes can be considered close -- have to catch a player who appeared to handle the tough conditions as easily as the tame ones.
''Unless something dramatic happens, I think he is the winner already,'' Jose Maria Olazabal said.
Something already did.
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