Tiger Woods still rates a look

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Cheers and Jeers,Sports,Golf,Kevin Dunleavy

Here's the power of Tiger Woods.

When he was in the lead in the fog-delayed Farmers Insurance Open on Sunday, CBS pre-empted its regular schedule to show an extra hour of the tournament, even though it was the inconsequential first few holes of the final round.

What perfect timing for CBS and the PGA Tour. On the first Sunday in five months without a real NFL game, golf's rainmaker filled the void, threatening to run away from the field as if it were a decade, a scandalous divorce and three knee surgeries ago.

Around the dial, there wasn't much competition -- Kevin Durant against the stumbling Lakers, the Sabres against the struggling Caps, the Winter X Games, the U.S. Figure Skating Championships and a half-dozen women's college basketball games at empty arenas. For a while, "Big Top Pee-wee" on IFC looked like the best alternative.

But Tiger saved the day and presumably the ratings. With dreamy ocean views of Torrey Pines as the backdrop, Woods provided a compelling peek at the state of his game.

The extra hour of coverage on CBS followed by another 70 minutes on the Golf Channel showed Woods at his scrambling best. After stellar work off the tee in the first three rounds, Woods hit his first three drives into the trees and the next two into the rough. But in a round that could have veered off the rails, Woods played the first seven holes in 3-under par, showing the laser-sharp short game of his prime.

When players ran out of daylight, Woods had a six-shot lead on Nick Watney and Brandt Snedeker. With 11 holes left for Woods, 10 for Watney and five for Snedeker, it would take an historic collapse for Woods not to win for the seventh time at Torrey Pines.

A victory would be a good omen. His last win in this tournament came in 2008, the year he also limped to his greatest triumph on a broken leg and a torn ACL in the U.S. Open, again at Torrey Pines.

Woods hasn't won a major since. Is it possible this weekend that Woods found what he lost on the same iconic course?

Announcer David Feherty summed up the day when Woods confidently rapped in a 5-footer for par.

"He reminds me of someone I used to know," Feherty said. "Him."

- Kevin Dunleavy

kdunleavy@washingtonexaminer.com

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